Bookends Q&A: Preston So
May 10, 2023
Up next in our Meet the Author series, we’re switching things up again! You may have already gotten to know Preston So from his previous interview (and first book he published with us), so we thought we’d ask him to talk all about books. That’s right, we’re back with another edition of Bookends Q&A to celebrate Preston’s newest book, Immersive Content and Usability!
ABA: What are you reading right now?
Preston So: Oddly enough, the pandemic converted me back into a voracious reader, and I’m now devouring books at nearly the same rate as I did in childhood. In large part, due to my renewed interest in Asian American and especially queer Asian American literature. (Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!) I’m currently reading, at various speeds:
- Piç (Turkish: Bastard) by Hakan Günday plays with the duality of the term “bastard” as used to refer to both “illegitimate” children and to people society considers undesirable. Revolving around four men named Afgan, Barbaros, Cenk, and Hakan, Günday’s book explicitly examines the sordid and dissatisfied lives they lead on the fringes of modern urban Turkish society. A dear friend gave his copy to me as a gift some time ago, and I’m finding it a captivating, eye-opening, and well written read.
- De bananengeneratie (Dutch: The Banana Generation) by Pete W is a personal and no-holds-barred look at second-generation Chinese-Dutch people—geel vanbuiten en wit vanbinnen (“yellow on the outside and white on the inside”)—and the internal and external pressures that come with being a person of color in the Netherlands. While Asians in the Americas deal with universal issues faced by diasporic Asians everywhere, like perpetual foreignness, harmful stereotypes, and sexual racism, Asian Europeans face unique obstacles of ethnicity and nationality. I first discovered Wu’s work through his writing for De Volkskrant, and also well worth a watch is his short documentary series Pete en de bananen (Dutch: Pete and the Bananas; has English subtitles) on VPRO, especially the second and third episodes.
- The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen is a Pulitzer-winning novel about a half Vietnamese, half French communist mole in the South Vietnamese military who finds himself stuck in California after fleeing Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. It’s a riveting read and a real page turner. I’ve been finding Nguyen’s explorations of dual sympathies and dual cultures to be fascinating in their expansive perspective on Asian and Asian immigrant identity. His writing has a certain bite that’s hard to explain.
- The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor has come recommended to me by multiple close friends, especially by loved ones who have struggled with their body images. Taylor builds on her own experiences to share her views on the importance of radical self-love in the context of a society that attaches great value to standards of beauty and physique that intrinsically exclude so many of us and are rooted in oppression. I’ve barely made a dent in it, but it’s been an intriguing read so far already.
ABA: What’s the last book you read that you wanted to share with others?
PS: One of my favorite things to do when hosting or seeing friends is to gift them books I’ve enjoyed and think they will too. Lately I’ve been on a tear of reading the new work of Asian American authors, and the two most recent books I’ve shared with loved ones are Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou, a hilarious and too-close-to-home look at Asian-Americanness in academia, and Severance by Ling Ma, a postapocalyptic novel that dispenses with the typically bombastic tropes of that genre in favor of allegorical disquiet.
Another friend who is also an avid reader of Spanish-language literature got my copy of Cómo piensan las piedras (Spanish: How Stones Think) by Mexican author Brenda Lozano, a book of short stories that are at once unsettling and puzzling in the best way—just like life. Before these, I gave friends my copies of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, and Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner, all fantastic reads.
ABA: What’s a book that made you laugh out loud?
PS: Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu is the last book I read that had me splitting my sides. Some of the humor may be lost on people not steeped in Asian American issues, but Yu does a great job of teasing out the funny moments of being Asian in America in accessible ways.
ABA: What book did you read in childhood that really stuck with you?
PS: As a teenager, I read Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison for the first time, and as soon as I finished, I immediately started reading it again. Few books made the impression on my young mind as Ellison’s magnum opus. From earlier in my childhood, two books I once read over and over again were Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois—both very nostalgic for me.
ABA: If you could write a book in any genre, what would it be?
PS: I’m currently working on a near-future science fiction novel—and an autobiographical essay or two—but my biggest dream I want to make reality is to write books in dystopian fiction and epic fantasy.
ABA: What’s in your To Be Read pile?
PS: I have far too big of a pile, and it’s growing by the day! Here’s a short list:
- Adiós, mariquita linda by Pedro Lemebel (in Spanish)
- Las biuty queens by Iván Monalisa Ojeda (in Spanish)
- Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
- In Sensorium by Tanaïs
- Joan Is Okay by Weike Wang
- R. U. R. by Karel Čapek (in Czech)
- Stay True by Hua Hsu
- Um defeito de cor by Ana Maria Gonçalves (in Portuguese)
- Whose Side Are You On by Ryan Lee Wong
ABA: What’s your favorite place to read?
PS: Either in bed right before going to sleep (whether at home or traveling) or on a plane, and very rarely on the subway or while waiting somewhere to meet a friend. I find it very difficult to read in any other setting—unless it’s for work!
ABA: What’s a book you love to re-read?
PS: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I also enjoy rereading Leite derramado (Portuguese: Spilled Milk) by Chico Buarque.
Learn more about all our authors—check out the rest of our Meet the Author series!
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