My new novel Dragon Chica is now available!
Trailer for the novel (w/an excerpt):
Plot Summary: Nea, a Chinese Cambodian teenager, has survived the Khmer Rouge only to land in poverty in Texas. Her small family struggles to get by when a miracle occurs. Wealthy and mysterious, Auntie and Uncle write to say they are alive and well, running a Chinese restaurant in Nebraska. As Nea helps pack Hefty bags with meager belongings for a journey into the American Midwest, little does she know their miracle has a dark side. Soon family secrets, small town resentments, lies born of wartime and a forbidden love threaten to tear them apart forever. In the tradition of Holden Caulfield and Scout Finch, Nea must fight to save her family…and herself.
The Dragon Chica Launch Party was a blast on October 13, 2010 at Books, Inc. at 601 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Live music from The Like Me\’s , dim sum, friends…and of course autographed copies of Dragon Chica! I’ve posted pix and video clips on my blog here: Launch Party
Here SF Bay Area indie band The Like Me’s perform the 1960s Khmer pop hit, “Monkey, Dance Monkey”:
(To see and hear The Like Me’s non-acoustic version of one of the songs they sang at the launch, check out their video: Monkey, Dance Monkey )
Oakland, Calif.: Thanks to everyone who came to my book signing at the NCIBA trade show during the noon hour on Saturday, October 16. Photos from the NCIBA!
Los Angeles: The SCIBA trade show on Saturday, October 23rd was amazing! Met so many cool people and had a lot of fun! Check out my blog entry Speed Dating & Selling Books. (There are pictures, too.)
Berkeley, California: We had a wonderful and moving discussion with Cambodian American student leaders and volunteers who work with refugees at Eastwind Books of Berkeley on Saturday, November 13th at 3 pm. EWBB is located just off the Berkeley campus and near the BART station. For photos and more information about the event, see my blog entry: Eastwind Books Event.
Advance Praise for Dragon Chica:
“It is very rare that a coming of age novel transcends its inherent limitations and attains the complex emotional resonance of adult fiction. Dragon Chica does this with great aplomb. The book explores with subtlety and depth the mature, universal issues of identity and connection, but it also retains its direct appeal to younger readers.
“May-lee Chai has performed a remarkable act of literary magic.”
—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
“Dragon Chica takes the reader deep into a compelling story about two sisters and the secret histories that surround them. “
—Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody’s Daughter
“What does it take to survive? Dragon Chica shows that you need courage, luck, cajones, a sense of humor, and a few miracles.” –Lac Su, author of the award-winning memoir I Love Yous Are for White People.
“Eleven-year-old Nea has seen the very worst this world has to offer – from civil war in Cambodia, to the rice fields of the Khmer Rouge, to the bullying hallways of American public school. Thankfully, her heart and imagination bloom wide enough to let her continue longing for the best. As she grows into a woman, Nea navigates her difficult life with clear-eyed and courageous idealism. May-lee Chai has written a brilliant and important coming-of-age story about a young refugee who refuses to give up her search for that promised refuge.
“Dragon Chica is an important and deliciously readable novel that will hold you in thrall; you won’t be able to look away from these pages, even as your eyes fill up with tears.”
—Nina de Gramont, author of Every Little Thing in the World and Gossip of the Starlings
“Power, witty and profound, Dragon Chica introduces readers to a new kind of American heroine.”
–Alicia Erian, author of Towelhead.
Publishers Weekly featured Dragon Chica in its online roundup of Indie Sleepers (its prediction for books from small, independent presses that PW thinks could become hits). Click here to read the article (you have to scroll down to the bottom for the entry on Dragon Chica): Rousing the Sleepers
Here’s a quote about Dragon Chica from the Publishers Weekly article:
“In all my years of publishing, I have rarely come across a character as memorable as Nea,” says Gemma founder Patricia O’Hare.
Check out the 5-star review on GoodReads.com here (with a detailed plot description as well): GoodReads.com Review of Dragon Chica
Great review from the blogosphere! Check out the Paper Adventures review: \”Clash of Cultures\” .
Praise from Young Author Medeia Shariff on her Sharif Writes Blog: “What I loved about Nea is her fighting spirit….This is a book that will appeal to people of all ages because of its historical and cultural aspects.“
Check out the Publishers Weekly Review of Dragon Chica!
Here’s my interview about Dragon Chica, the writing process, and advice to writers trying to break into the business in the award-winning blog Sharif Writes.
Check out this YA Book Reviewer from the blogosphere: YA review of Dragon Chica. (The reviewer is referring to the Kindle edition of Dragon Chica.)
San Francisco Magazine gave me the highest praise indeed by including me in such illustrious literary company as Yiyun Li, 2010 National Book Award-nominee Karen Tei Yamashita, and novelist Leonard Chang! Quote from their \”As Asian As They Wanna Be\” article: Dragon Chica is “An appealing novel about a Chinese Cambodian teen in the Midwest who learns to manage family drama, negotiate the fierce hallways of public school, and harness the freedom of being in the driver’s seat.” Thank you!
Loved this review by Meghan from Forever Young Adult called “The Chica with the Dragon Tattoo.” The reviewer has a unique and lively style and even came up with casting ideas for Hollywood. :) Quote from the review: “Nea’s the one kid who’s truly in the middle of two worlds, not quite belonging to either, and I’d love to both befriend her and smack the stupid, ignorant kids at her school who insist on teasing and tormenting her for being different.” Meghan, FTW!
Received the loveliest email from writer P.G. Sturges, author of Shortcut Man, saying he’d just finished reading Dragon Chica. “I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. Your book is a triumph. I wish, this second, that I could go to the Palace and order a meal from Ma. And be served by the twins….This book reads like life–success, failure, hope, despair, laughter, tears.”
Rave Review from the Dallas Morning News: Quote from the review by Anne Morris, member of the National Books Critic Circle:
On December 22, my publisher sent me this lovely review from Angela Craft of BookishBlather.blogspot.com: “While parts of Nea’s story are surely unique to the Cambodian immigrant experience, large parts of it also seem like they apply to all immigrants, and will be appreciated by anyone with close ties to another country and culture.” You can read the full review here.
In response to requests, I’ve now posted a list of questions that can be used for Book Clubs or Classrooms that have adopted Dragon Chica. Dragon-Chica: Book-Club-Guide
Check back for more reading dates, events, reviews, and videos.