Category Archives: Thai American

DupliKate by Cherry Cheva

While I have to confess Cherry Cheva‘s sophomore novel is not quite the fabulous fun of her 2008 debut, She’s So Money, I’ll also insist that DupliKate (with the oh so perfect title!) is undoubtedly an entertaining read that will keep you quickly turning the pages. My teenage daughter chose to forgo swimming with endless tropical fish in order to finish the book because she simply couldn’t put it down. That Cheva (full name Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a Thai American originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, now based in LA) has a day job writing for Family Guy probably makes her quite an expert in adolescent-speak-and-think.

Katerina Larson – smart, determined, attractive – has exactly 11 days to ace (as always) her final exams, retake her already-highly-scored-but-not-quite-perfect SATs, write her personal statement college essay, and file her Yale application. The plan is that Kate and her hottie-valedictorian-basketball-team-captain-boyfriend who’s already a Yale legacy shoe-in will be blissfully together in New Haven come fall. Besides the boyfriend, Kate’s also dealing with neglecting her best friend, having to work with a slacker physics partner who was once her closest buddy until she ditched him freshman year, and most importantly, being chronically sleep-deprived.

When she wakes from an unintended late-night nap, Kate finds herself face-to-face … with herself. Out of her computer appears Rina, a “SimuLife” computer-game double she created years ago, body glitter and all. Rina, a nickname Kate thought seemed so much cooler back in 8th grade, is here in the flesh … and right now in the midst of countdown anxiety, Kate has no way of dealing with her until after December 15th.

Rina has spent the last four years stuck in endless boredom and she’s more than ready for a few adventures. Once Kate gets over the initial shock, she finds having doubled herself is not such a bad thing. Rina proves surprisingly helpful, making her flash cards, going to boring meetings so Kate can study, hanging out with Kate’s neglected friends … and even spending quality time with her whining boyfriend. Maybe having Rina around isn’t so bad … until Rina begins to enjoy Kate’s life a little too much …

In spite of her easy-to-appreciate prose, Cheva occasionally trips when her protagonist tends towards overly shallow self-absorbtion, not to mention annoyingly blind boyfriend worship (she really is too smart for that!). A reminder or two that a world exists beyond overflowing closets, shopping, Starbucks runs, high school GPAs and rankings, and Ivy applications might also have been welcome.

Minor quibbles aside, Cheva’s wild premise proves especially timely with today’s overachieving, overscheduled teens trying to somehow balance their academic, social, and family commitments – a seemingly impossible feat these days … without a double, ahem! In such a goal-driven environment, even the parents are overworked Ivy-degreed superachievers, including Kate’s mostly absent attorney single mother.

Somehow, Kate laudably stays true to herself, never taking the easy way out (except for the one day she skips classes for a much-needed sleep-in), even when opportunities are practically forced upon her. And, ultimately, both Cheva and Kate earn high marks for both effort and final clarity.

Readers: Young Adult

Published: 2009

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Filed under ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, Nonethnic-specific, Thai American

She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva

shes-so-moneyGet ready for some rollicking fun with this debut novel about super-overachieving Maya, the perfect daughter who gets all As and still manages to help out in her parents’ Thai restaurant.

One small slip-up while her parents are away and she needs to find some major cash, fast. Her only choice is to team up with the odious but wealthy Camden King. But crime never pays, does it?

Review: “In Celebration of Asian Pacific American Month: A Survey of New & Notable Books,” The Bloomsbury Review, May/June 2008

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2008

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Filed under ..Middle Grade Readers, ..Young Adult Readers, .Fiction, South Asian American, Thai American

Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap + Author Interview

SightseeingClint Eastwood, Summer Love, and Cockfighting

The good news first: Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s family in Thailand is all fine; the tsunami thankfully did not harm them. The other good news: His collection of short stories, Sightseeing, which debuts this week, is absolutely superb.

Born in Chicago, raised in Bangkok, and currently living in Norwich, England on a fellowship at the University of East Anglia, the 25-year-old Lapcharoensap (called “A” by everyone except “unfriendly bureaucratic institutions,” he says) vividly captures a slice of life for each of his memorable characters. From a young hapa boy (who keeps a pet pig named Clint Eastwood!) who believes he’s in love with a summer tourist, to an old American codger transplanted to Thailand to live out his final years with his son and Thai daughter-in-law, to a young girl on the brink of adulthood who witnesses her father’s humiliating downfall through gambling, Lapcharoensap’s characters leave a lingering memory even as his words come to an end.

AsianWeek: Where did the inspiration for Sightseeing come from? I understand that these stories are not at all autobiographical …
Rattawut Lapcharoensap: Many of the stories were partly born out of a certain frustration with depictions of Thais and Thailand in contemporary English-language literature. The Thailand I often encountered seemed a far cry from the Thailand I thought I knew, the Thailand I loved.

Whether or not my stories are ‘autobiographical’ depends upon what is meant by the term. If ‘autobiography’ means an account of a life’s events, then this is not an autobiographical book. The events of my life have not been transposed onto the page. Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a piece of writing uninformed by an author’s life experiences. You can’t write about people unless you’ve known a few. My characters often come to me by way of their voices – a line of dialogue, snippet of conversation, the way they may or may not say something.

AW: How has your family reacted to your book?
RL: My family’s reaction to the book has been one of pride and a certain measure of relief, I think. I was unemployed in the winter of 2004 and had decided to finish my book on the small bit of money that I had set aside over the years. There was quite a bit of skepticism about my decision at the time, not only from my family but also, of course, from myself; watching my bank account dwindle that winter made me feel pretty foolish, particularly when the writing wasn’t going as planned. Needless to say, when the book was accepted for publication in April, there was joy, but there was also, I think, an enormous amount of relief. I felt – and continue to feel – inordinately lucky: [that] I should be able to make my living doing something I love. … [click here for more]

of my life have not been transposed onto the page.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a
piece of writing uninformed by an author’s life
experiences. You can’t write about people unless
you’ve known a few. My characters often come to me
by way of their voices — a line of dialogue, snippet
of conversation, the way they may or may not say
something.
HOW HAS YOUR FAMILY REACTED TO YOUR
BOOK?
RL: My family’s reaction to the book has been one of
pride and a certain measure of relief, I think. I was
unemployed in the winter of 2004 and had decided
to finish my book on the small bit of money that I had
set aside over the years. There was quite a bit of
skepticism about my decision at the time, not only
from my family but also, of course, from myself;
watching my bank account dwindle that winter made
me feel pretty foolish, particularly when the writing
wasn’t going as planned. Needless to say, when the
book was accepted for publication in April, there was
joy, but there was also, I think, an enormous amount
of relief. I felt — and continue to feel — inordinately
lucky: [that] I should be able to make my living doing
something I love.

Author interview: “Clint Eastwood, Summer Love, and Cockfighting,” AsianWeek, January 21, 2005

Readers: Adult

Published: 2004

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Filed under ...Author Interview/Profile, ..Adult Readers, .Fiction, .Short Stories, Southeast Asian, Southeast Asian American, Thai, Thai American