Catherine Chung

The novelist on unforgettable voices ancient and modern.

 

 

Catherine Chung's critically hailed debut novel Forgotten Country weaves a web of folklore and family stories around the lives of two Korean-American sisters. When we asked her to recommend three favorite books, she picked an eclectic trio of works that range across genres and epochs.

 

Buy Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

 

 


 

The Thousand Nights and One Night

Translated by J.C. Mardrus and E.P. Mathers;

 

"This is my favorite translation of Arabian Nights, which I've loved since I read the children's version as a kid. I love the setup, which begins with Sharhazad, a woman who spins a spellbinding maze of stories night after night to trick her husband the Sultan into postponing her death each day. She is counting on these stories and his curiosity to save her and her people from his vendetta against women: it turns out he has already killed all of his previous brides. What she creates is a tapestry of interwoven tales that is as complicated and dazzling as you could ever hope for -- it is no wonder that the Sultan remains enthralled for a thousand and one nights, or that he falls in love with his courageous wife as she teaches him a lesson in humility and wisdom. The writing and the stories in here are an absolute delight."

 


 

Notes of a Native Son

By James Baldwin

 

"'Our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult -- that is, accept it.' Oh, James Baldwin -- I will forever love you. This collection of essays blew my whole mind the first time I read it. It's so impassioned and brilliant, and stylistically gorgeous -- but more than that, it's compassionate and clear-eyed and wise and brave. It taught me so much about how to think deeply about things and how tightly bound our lives are to the stories we tell. This is a book that shows us how to face and grapple with our own demons: it is a book that even now, helps me live."

 


 

Tracks

By Louise Erdrich

 

"'We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.' This is the opening to the first Louise Erdrich book I ever picked up, and I've been hooked (and hungry) ever since. It's an exhilarating, powerful read that begins with the voice of Nanapush, a tribal elder recounting the history of his people, and who (along with Fleur Pillager who makes her appearance in the next chapter) is one of my favorite characters of all time. Told in alternating storylines, this book surprised me with its gorgeous, ecstatic writing, and its vitality and largeness of vision. It has all the stuff of real life -- gossip and scandal, humor and tragedy -- and opens out into a world filled with beauty and grit, endurance and breathtaking sorrow."

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.