Monday, February 29, 2016

Michael Connelly and Season Two of "Bosch"



For those of us who love Michael Connelly's books and who've been patiently waiting for the next season of "Bosch" to debut on Amazon Prime, we don't have much longer to wait. Season two will launch on March 11th. I reached out to Michael Connelly to get his take on the new season, which you can read below. But first, here's the Season Two trailer:

 

Chris Schluep: Did it seem like the stakes were higher heading into the second season?

Michael Connelly: I think so because I felt and Eric Overmyer felt and everybody associated felt like we had a pretty good first season. We had established the character of Bosch and the tone and grit of the show and that was really our main goal. So now what? Now that we have that down, we need to elevate and kick the storytelling up a notch. So that was most pressing. Those were the stakes for the creators. As far as the story goes, the stakes are definitely higher because in this season Bosch and Edgar follow a case that stumbles across a much bigger investigation with bigger implications. To me its a big story rather than a smaller personal story like we used in season one.

CS: How did you decide which books to use for the Season Two storyline?

Drop

MC: It all comes out of relationships. We really love the relationship between Bosch and his daughter. We wanted to carry that forward but his daughter lives with her mother in Las Vegas. Well, there was one book that has a lot of action take place in Vegas: Trunk Music. So that made that choice easy. Next, we wanted to continue to exploit the love/hate relationship between Bosch and Deputy Chief Irving. So we brought in The Drop which pulls these natural born enemies into an investigation together. And lastly, we never want to forget about what makes Harry Bosch tick and so we looked at elements of The Last Coyote because that is the most personal book about Bosch. It's the story of his mother's murder and his finding out what happened.

CS: Will there be more jazz featured on the show, and was doing so important to you? Is jazz the music you listen to when you're writing the Bosch books? 

MC: I listen to a lot of jazz while writing the Bosch books. It helps drop me into that zone. So I think, yes, it is important to get that into the show. It is a character stroke. It says something about him. This year we have it underpinning many scenes and we even had a live performance. We have a scene filmed at the Catalina jazz club in Hollywood where Bosch meets his lieutenant for a drink and there is live jazz performed by saxophonist Grace Kelly. The song Grace and her band performs in the scene is actually called "Blues for Harry Bosch," which she composed for her new album. That was pretty cool. The song has a relentless sound to it that definitely says Harry Bosch.

CS: What do you hear from your fans about the show?

MC: The show's getting very high marks from readers who know the books and know Harry Bosch. I think with Titus leading the way as the main character we have put together something that captures the books but also stands alone as an addictive cop show. The master of the genre, Joseph Wambaugh said the best cop shows are not about how cops work on cases but how cases work on cops. I think that's what we've got here.

CS: Now, when you're writing new Bosch novels, does Titus Welliver register in your mind's view of Bosch?

MC: Not yet. I think because I am writing in books about a Bosch 15 years further down the road in terms of age and where he is in life, the two characters have so far remained distinctive in my creative mind. Titus is younger, more active, more driven than the Bosch I write about these days who is retired and out of the politics and bureaucracy of the police department. It makes him a bit more contemplative.

CS: What's coming next from you? 

MC: I'm working on a Bosch book for the fall. It's called The Wrong Side of Goodbye.



CoyoteFor the books and songs listed in this article, see:

    Trunk Music

    The Drop

    The Last Coyote

    "Blues for Harry Bosch"

    The Wrong Side of Goodbye

 For all Michael Connelly's books, go to his author page.

 

 



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Best Books of February: Biographies & Memoirs



Father-PornographerSometimes, even when you think that it might be better if you didn't, you just have to look. And sometimes you're rewarded with something unexpected and original, as in the case of Chris Offutt's My Father, the Pornographer. I'll let Chris Schluep explain:

"There's something wildly readable about My Father the Pornograhper. Chris Offutt grew up in rural Kentucky in the 1970s with three siblings, his mother, and his father. The father, Andrew Offutt, was a domestic despot who ruled the house by fear and edict—when he wasn't intimidating his family, he spent most of his time writing science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as lots of pornography, which at the time was a reasonable way for a writer to make ends meet. The jumping off point of the book, and the catalyst for many of the younger Offutt's memories, takes place upon Andrew Offutt's death, when Chris begins to catalog his father's life's work. 'My father was a brilliant man, a true iconoclast, fiercely self-reliant, a dark genius, cruel, selfish, and eternally optimistic,' Chris Offutt writes. We see the father through Chris' eyes, and we see Chris and the rest of the family through his father's eyes. This is a fascinating memoir: honest, dark, amusing, and overlaid with a son's deep, if strained, love for his father."

See more of the Best Biographies and Memoirs of the Month below, or browse all of our picks for February across 15 categories. Quick, before it's too late.

 

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Sunny's Nights: Lost and Found at a Bar on the Edge of the World by Tim Sultan
Generally, love stories featuring the romance between a man and bar fall toward the sad end of the dial. Not so with Sunny's Nights, Sultan's tribute to a unique watering hole, its larger-than-life barkeep, and the assorted nuts that called it home away from home.
 

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In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Pulitzer Prize winner's deeply self-reflective nonfiction debut--presented in both Italian and English--chronicles her obsession with mastering a new language, culminating in her family's move to Italy and  feelings of alienation, linguistic and cultural, that accompanied her.
 

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Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith
Drawing on previously unreleased materials--including personal papers and FBI records--Blood Brothers illuminates the complex relationship between two of the most compelling and polarizing figures of the the civil rights movement.
 

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Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
A briskly paced blend of gripping adventure tale and a portrait of modern Africa, full of objective hazards including crocodiles, minefields, and secret police. But why? Even Wood has trouble answering that question, but "ultimately, it came down to one thing. The Nile was there, and I wanted to walk it."
 
 


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Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekend Reading



In this edition of Weekend Reading, buzzworthy biographies of the Godfather of Soul and the "Rough Rider," the latest from a FellsideNational Book Award winner, a book about a guy who decides to take a holiday from being human by impersonating a goat, and a debut that might as well be called, Gone Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. The Amazon editors have varied tastes indeed.

Adrian Liang: I'm finally--finally!--reading Fellside by M. R. Carey this weekend. For weeks I've been gazing longingly at this book by the author of The Girl with All the Gifts (my favorite zombie story of all time), and I can't wait to start. It's about a woman in a maximum security prison on the edge of the moors, and she's hearing voices no one else can hear.

Sara Nelson: I'm looking forward to finishing The Third Wave, the forthcoming memoir/business book by AOL founder Steve Case.   As someone working for one of the companies that launched half a decade after AOL, I find it interesting to see how it was in "the old days." And, well, I was also there, literally: Although I never met Case, one of my early jobs was at an "AOL Greenhouse project" called The Book Report. (It' now a freestanding Web site, bookreporter.com.)

Jon Foro: National Book Award winner James McBride's Kill 'Em and Leave is quite possibly (at least I'm hoping) the definitive biography of the Godfather of Soul, getting beyond feeling good to illuminate the world that made him and the ways he changed it.

I love books about Teddy Roosevelt--especially those focused on his wilder side--and clocking in at just over 300 pages (with generous notes), The Naturalist looks like a reasonable commitment for a weekend.

Erin Kodicek: In the past few weeks I have received no less than four copies of Goat Man. Not sure what that says about me, but I'm taking it as a sign that I should take a peek before eight more copies arrive. It's about a (slightly) eccentric guy who disguises himself as a goat--even going so far as to fashion a prosthetic goat stomach to digest grass--and briefly joins a herd in the Alps. No, this is not fiction. Evidently an actual goat takes a shine to our hero, so it's also a love story. Of sorts. Sounds pretty whacky and fascinating. Or maybe it's just whacky.

I'm also having a look at Edna O'Brien's new one, The Little Red Chairs. I haven't read O'Brien in quite some time, not since her wonderful The Light of Evening. The buzz around 'Chairs' is that it's just as lyrical, but far more thrilling. Can't wait.

Seira Wilson: This weekend I'm finally going to start The Girl in the Blue Coat. This young adult novel has been getting lots of great word-of-mouth praise and I've been itching to read it. The story takes place in Amsterdam during WWII and involves a disappearance, the toll of war, and everyday people doing extraordinary things.

Chris Schluep: One of the books I'll be reading this weekend will be Hope Jahren's Lab Girl, which I've been hearing about for months. I don't like to know too much about a book before I start; all I really know is that it's a debut memoir by a woman who is a scientist. In my opinion, it's much better to let a story unfold by itself. Another book I'll be taking a look at is a novel called Maestra, by L.S. Hinton. Like I said, I don't like to know too much—but from what I've gleaned, it might accurately be titled Gone Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. Anyway, I'm looking forward to both these books. I'll have more to say about them once I've read them. Lastly, I'll be reading more of Spain in our Hearts, which is a big history about the Spanish Civil War that I'm really enjoying.

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Music Exec LA Reid on Music, Jay Z, What Makes a Star, and More



ReidThis month, music exec LA Reid came out with his memoir Sing to Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next. If you're a music fan with any interest in how things work behind the scenes (and most of us are), you'll find this to be a fascinating read. Here's a list of some of the the artists L.A. Reid has worked with: Usher, TLC, Outkast, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Justin Bieber, Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Kanye, Pink, and Rihanna.

I had the chance to talk to L.A. Reid on the phone a few weeks ago. He's a star in his own right, charming and gracious, and while talking to him I gained even more insight into why he's so successful. Here's is a portion of our conversation:

 

Why did you decide to write the book now?

I decided to write the book because—it's funny, I was just talking about this—I was hopeful that maybe this story could provide some inspiration to people, to young people in particular. And the other reason is that I kind of like my story, if you want to know the truth, and I'd like to share my story while people might give a damn about the artists I worked with, rather than wait until I'm a hundred and they don't know the artists anymore--and they say "Who?" I wanted to write it in the time that these artists are relevant.

When did you know that you wanted to do what you do?

I knew I wanted to be a record executive when I read Clive Davis's first book. It was the coolest think in the world, and he had photos of himself at the Beverly Hills Hotel pool with Miles Davis, and another photo of himself with Sly Stone, and another photo of himself hugging Janice Joplin, and I was like "holy crap, this is the coolest job in the world." And I was eighteen years old, so it took me twenty years but that was always my goal.

What was it like when you first met Clive Davis?

I had already read the book, so I was already in awe of him. And you know what, I just really wanted to go into a room and figure out how I could copy him. He was model. He was an example. He was a blue print, someone I could study. And he was unquestionably one of the greats. I loved it.

You worked with Jay-Z as an executive but you also worked with him as a recording artist. How did one relationship affect the other?

I think it was all complimentary in every sense. He was probably a better executive than people who were only executives. He had a duality, because he was also an artist. And I think he was more prompt, and more serious, and more studied, and more effective as an executive than many, many executives. And as an artist, I think that he separated the two. He's one of the great poets, if not the greatest. He's one of the great poets of our life and time, and he didn't compromise one for the other.

In the book you have a story about what Pink taught you about artistry...

Pink was one of the early artists in my career to come in as one person and then morph into another character, one that she named "Pink." Watching it happen was educational in a lot of ways. It was inspirational, but it was also an education: like, oh my god, here's how is happens. And I thought to myself, even then, this must be what happened to Madonna. At some point she must have been this person… and then Madonna was born. And all the greats were like that—that's how I thought about it. And I also realized that it wasn't something you could coach an artist into. It was something that either happened or it didn't. I watched it happen with Pink and it was magical.

What is it that makes somebody a star?

I don't know what makes anybody a star. All I know is that some people just have this magnetism about them. And when they walk into a room, you look, and you're stuck, and you feel the air get sucked out of the room. I can't explain it, because it's not like you have this certain look and that makes you a star. Or you're so beautiful and that makes you a star. You could be beautiful and be boring. Or you could not be beautiful but be just a big character. There's no one thing--for me, it's just a feeling—it's a feeling I have when I'm in the presence of stars. And I love the feeling, by the way. I absolutely love it, and I live for it. I've experienced it at times that had nothing to do with business. And those are the times that really were the lessons. I remember the time I was in a room and Barrack Obama walked in to the room. And he was the senator from Illinois. And it was eleven o'clock at night and we had a conversation. And I knew the minute he walked into the room that, oh, my god, this guy is a star. Who is this? And shortly thereafter he was the President of the United States. But he was a star.

What's your proudest moment?

I can't say I have a proudest moment. I think I have proud moments often, honestly. Every time I hear my songs on the radio, that's a proud moment. Or every time somebody says, "You know, I used to listen to Babyface, and that's how our children were born," that's proud. I have so many, and I really mean that in the most humble way. Just having been involved with so much music, I have so many moments that I'm proud of.

 



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Thursday, February 25, 2016

The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There...or in a Book



The X-FilesThe old series spawned a rich world of novels, graphic novels, and behind-the-scenes coffee table books. The new series—which just concluded on February 22—is doing something similar.

Discover what truth is out there for X-Files readers.

 

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The X-Files: Season 10 (Volumes 1-5) - Luckily, X-Files fans are used to wrapping their heads around some twisty situations, so here's your first challenge: In the graphic novel world, the TV series's season 10 (which just aired in early 2016) is called season 11 in graphic novels. Why? A series of comics called Season 10 came out years earlier featuring all-new adventures of Mulder and Scully that took place after the end of the TV series's season 9. (Confused yet?) In any case, these are rousing stories that match Mulder and Scully against the Syndicate, mysterious artifacts, and more.
 

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The X-Files: Season 11 (Volumes 1-2, not yet released) - If you read the above paragraph, you'll know that season 11 graphic novel = season 10 in TV-land. Scully and Mulder's on-screen sleuthing gets the graphic novel treatment from Joe Harris, who penned the earlier graphic novel series.
 

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The X-Files: The Truth Is Out There - Original stories by top authors such as Bev Vincent, Rachel Caine, and Kelley Armstrong about Mulder and Scully—and approved by X-Files creator Chris Carter—bring additional depth and new points of view to the ongoing saga of these two agents who fight the good fight.
 

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The X-Files: The Official Collection Volume 1 - A collection of photos, quotes, and more from X-Files Magazine, this colorful volume might not include tons that will surprise die-hard fans, but it's a nice way to take a trip down memory lane without watching all ten seasons. Two more volumes will be published this year.
 

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The Real Science Behind the X-Files by Anne Simon – An older title, this book nevertheless stays relevant as it pulls back the curtain and looks at the science used in The X-Files. From viruses to cloning to nanotechology, the science adviser to The X-Files reveals just how mysterious real science can be.
 

 



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Upcoming Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books I Can’t Wait to Read



Ah, springtime. When you should be outside, listening to the gentle hush of growing things and feeling the warmth of good ol' vitamin D on your skin.

Amazon Book ReviewBut after looking at the science fiction and fantasy books hitting shelves (literal or virtual) in the next several months, I might move farther north so I have a better excuse to stay inside with a good book.

Here are ten new novels I can't wait to read:

 

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Fellside by M. R. Carey - Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts blew me away when I read it, and it's always the first book I recommend when people ask me for a good zombie read. Its twisty ending was a shocker, and I'm on the edge of my seat to see what he does with with this story of a woman in a maximum security prison on the edge of the moors. Why is she there? What's the whispering she hears? Hopefully I'll find out this weekend, as I plan to take it with me on a road trip to Canada. (See, I wasn't totally joking about going north.)
 

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Chains of Command by Marko Kloos - Kloos' military sci-fi series continues as Earth is  endangered by aliens who have gained control of Mars, while renegades endanger humanity from the inside. Kloos' books have gained a lot of fans and a lot of traction as this series has progressed, so I'm hoping this is a another winner.
 

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The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey - Kadrey has promised that The Everything Box is going to be completely different from his hard-core Sandman Slim novels. This sort of statement from any other writer would normally make me cautious; instead, I can't wait to see how Kadrey will surprises me.
 

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Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel - This debut novel promises to mix of science, conspiracy, and philosophy in high-speed story centered on an artifact that may indicate that others are watching us. Whether they watch us like a big brother or like Big Brother, well, we'll find out!
 

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Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray - In 2015 Gray delivered a nuanced and spellbinding read with Star Wars: Lost Stars, delving into how the acts of the Empire and the Rebellion during the original saga (A New Hope through Return of the Jedi, plus a bit more) affected two friends on opposite sides of the conflict. Bloodline takes place much closer in time to The Force Awakens, and I've been told that it "answers questions." Probably not the big question everyone is asking about Rey, but I'll take any answers I can get.
 

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Admiral by Sean Danker - A young man awakes on a space ship and learns he's an admiral in the Evagardian Empire. But is he really? He has no memory of who he is, but as the ship's functions start to fail, he has to bind together with the three other new recruits on board to survive. Sounds like a fine start to a thrilling military sci-fi series.
 

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The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood - Lockwood is known for his jaw-dropping artwork that has blessed many a fantasy cover, and I'm hoping that his debut novel also makes him known as a new fantasy author to watch or, rather, to read. The tale of a young woman who wants to become a dragon rider, The Summer Dragon's plot reminds me of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, which is very much a good thing.
 

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Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley - The Rook released only four years ago, but it's felt more like four decades, because the wait for O'Malley's next book has been so long and painful. In Stiletto, O'Malley's amnesic heroine Myfanwy must continue her work as the high-powered Rook in the British secret organization called the Chequy. Myfanwy is a bit like James Bond in a supernatural setting, but O'Malley allows a lighter tone to prevail even during the rowdiest action scenes. I'm desperately hoping that Stiletto maintains the fantastic fun that The Rook delivered. 
 

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League of Dragons by Naomi Novik - Novik, whose book Uprooted was our pick as the best fantasy book of 2015, brings her Temeraire series to a dramatic conclusion with League of Dragons. In a final desperate bid to win the war, Napoleon offers freedom to all the dragons of the world as long as they fight under his banner. This historical fantasy series has consistently matched fierce action with deft political twists, and I expect this last Temeraire novel will be no exception.
 

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False Hearts by Laura Lam - This book's description says: "Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult." This book had me at: "formerly conjoined sisters," "murderous plot," "shared dreaming," and "sinister cult"...so, yep, this one is pretty close to the top of my to-be-read pile.
 
 
Which new books are you looking forward to reading?

 

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Nathan Lane Goes to the Dogs



Lane-postNathan Lane is probably best known for his roles on stage and screen (The Birdcage, The Producers, and his hilarious recurring role as Pepper Saltzman on Modern Family) but last fall he added children's book author to his impressive resume.  

Naughty Mabel, which Lane co-wrote with his partner Devlin Elliott, is a funny and delightful picture book romp about a very spoiled--and much adored--French Bulldog.  Is there a real Mabel? Why yes... In the video interview below, Lane talks about how the book was started, what it's been like to become a children's book author, and his own fierce attachment to a certain adventurous mouse...

*And in case you're wondering--Mabel will be back this fall in a new book, Naughty Mabel Sees It All...

See Nathan Lane's picks for his favorite reads of 2015 or find reading recommendations, author interviews, and more by subscribing to the Amazon Book Review.


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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime



Habit

This morning the Amazon editors released their list of 100 Leadership & Success Books to Read in a Lifetime. This is the seventh 100 Books list, and our goal with this one was to compose a list of books that would help people to plan for their future and/or live better in their present. That meant many different types of books were in play--biographies, self-help, business, inspiration, science of the mind, etc. There are Ted Talkers, Pulitzer finalists, and one or two Nobel Prize winners on our final list.

Here are some other facts:

  • 5: the number of titles that begin with "The Art of..."
  • 3: the number of books with "happiness" in the title
  • 12: the number of books that could reasonably fall into biography/autobiography

 

Our hope is that there's something for everyone in this list. Of course, we realize we couldn't identify every book for every reader. If there's a book you love that you think should have made the list, go to our Readers' Picks list on GoodReads and add your own favorite. We'll publish that list on Amazon in a few weeks.

 



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Best Books of the Month: Shawna Yang Ryan on "Green Island"



Amazon Book Review: Green IslandGreen Island, one of our Best Books of the Month selections for February, is the kind of historical story that is at once personal and political. Set in Taiwan, it traces the life of a family that lived through both decades of upheaval and a forever-complicated relationship with its Chinese heritage. Here, author Shawna Yang Ryan writes about the inspiration for the book – her mother was born in Taiwan, she herself grew up in the west but won a fellowship to go back and study the history of the island; she also examines what it means that, for the first time in history, Taiwan has a woman president.


My mother was born in Taiwan. Growing up in California, I had only a vague understanding of her childhood. I was aching for Judy Blume moments, voraciously consuming Sweet Valley High books, watching John Hughes movies and practicing my Molly Ringwald pout, and wanted nothing more than to pile cliché atop cliché—student government, sports, homecoming and proms—angsts and desires that my mother seemed to find a little inexplicable. When I, ahem, "crossed into womanhood," I scripted my revelation to her based on a book I'd recently read. I thought that she, like the mother in the book, would clap her hands together, hug me, and bake me a cake with Congratulations, you're a woman! spelled out in icing. Instead, she was completely unfazed. It was not only a generation gap, but a cultural one as well.

Writers work with the concrete—the smell of the streets, the color of the sky, the pressure of history on the actual body. I wanted to understand how to reconcile the photos of my mother in the 70s, smiling brightly with her elbow-length black hair and skin-tight, high-waisted bell bottom jeans with images of military police in white helmets, and concepts like censorship, dictatorship and one-party system. I found beneath the West's lauding of Taiwan as an Asian Tiger was a pervasive culture of fear perpetuated by neighbors spying on neighbors, students spying on classmates. My mother's adolescence was filled with warnings to fight Communism and to beware of Communists spies—slogans found everywhere from movie tickets to wrapping paper to even mooncakes. Beneath American ally Chiang Kai Shek's charming smile was a ruthless leader who had overseen the imprisonment and torture of thousands of political dissidents. No wonder my mother had been unmoved by my suburban teenage dramas. To understand all of this, I had to go to Taiwan. I arrived on a ten-month Fulbright grant and stayed three years, during which I took Mandarin classes every day and interviewed everyone who would say yes. I looked at old family photos, listened to people's stories and favorite songs. I sweated through the sizzling summers, rode trains and buses all around the island, and learned to negotiate daily life—like banking and paying bills—in Mandarin. All to reach the point where I could tell this story.

SYRIn Green Island, the unnamed narrator is born two years after the arrival of the Chinese Nationalists to Taiwan, and two weeks before her father is arrested and imprisoned for promoting Taiwanese self-representation. She grows up without a father, in a place where the Taiwanese become second-class citizens to the ruling Chinese Nationalists. She is taught that China is the ancestral land and that one day the Nationalists will retake it from the Communists. She learns Chinese history as her own. In school, she is forced to speak Mandarin and is punished for speaking Hokkien (colloquially called "Taiwanese"). As an adult, she moves to California, but discovers that she still cannot escape the legacy of her father's "crimes." Even in America, she is asked to spy on and betray people she loves.

Taiwan lived under thirty-eight years of martial law. Even after martial law was lifted in 1987, the ruling party—the Nationalists—held much of the power. An opposition party candidate gained office from 2000-2008, but was promptly imprisoned after his term ended. That is why I found myself this recent January, on the night of Taiwan's election, anxiously toggling between Twitter, Facebook and multiple news sites, witnessing the astounding election results come in. A progressive candidate—an unmarried, cat-loving, LGBT-supporting female candidate!—was winning by a landslide. Tsai Ing-Wen won 56% of the vote, versus the Nationalist candidate's 31%, and East Asia gained its second female head of state. At first glance, this—a female president—seems to be what makes this election newsworthy, and yet it is only one of piece of what makes Tsai's win special.

In the world of my novel—in the world my mother grew up in—a president like Tsai Ing-Wen is part of a future that people cannot yet dare to imagine. Taiwan's recent election—and the people in the streets that night shouting "We are Taiwanese"—gives me hope that there are still many other currently unimaginable and wonderful possible futures that can come to fruition.


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