Reading Recommendations: Local Authors

The Better Mother, Jen Sookfong Lee

The Better MotherThe Better Mother is the story of two solitary outcasts who struggle under the weight of who they were born to be and find each other while attempting to embrace their true identities.

In 1958, eight-year-old Danny Lim has been sent to buy cigarettes for his father, when he realizes he lost the money. Desperate to avoid punishment, he searches for the change he dropped in Vancouver’s Chinatown when he stumbles into Miss Val, a long-time burlesque dancer. Danny is enraptured with her stage costume, and Val, touched by his fascination, gives him a pack of cigarettes and her silk belt. As an eight-year-old boy, Danny recognizes that he is different from his family and his chance meeting with Val changes him forever. The epitome of glamour, Val represented everything Danny’s family had shunned and opened his eyes to the fact that there was more to life than his father’s expectations.

As an adult in his early thirties, Danny spends his days working as a wedding photographer and his nights cruising Stanley Park. Semi-closeted, he struggles with coming out to his estranged parents, but believes that the key to understanding himself and his family lies in connection to Miss Val.

Set mostly during an unseasonably hot summer in Vancouver in 1982 when HIV/AIDS was spreading rapidly, The Better Mother brims with undeniable tragedy, but resounds with the power of friendship, change and truth. (May 2011)


Beauty Plus Pity, Kevin Chong

Beauty Plus Pity
Malcolm Kwan is a slacker twentysomething Asian-Canadian who is about to embark on a modeling career when his life is suddenly derailed by two near-simultaneous events: the death of his father and the betrayal of his fiancée, who has left him.

Soon he meets Hadley, the half-sister he never knew existed―the result of his father's extramarital affair―and as their tentative relationship grows, Malcolm is forced to confront his past relationships with women, including his mother, who is working through her grief after the death of her husband and resentment at her son befriending her husband’s daughter.

Beauty Plus Pity is about a young man who's forced to reckon with the past as he works through his lifelong ambivalence toward his hyphenated cultural identity, and between two parents holding intolerable secrets. (September 2011)