A memoir in pieces that uses one woman’s life-long obsession with pop culture as a lens to explore family, grief, the power of female rage, Asian fetish, and what it’s cost to resist the trap of being a “good Chinese girl.”
For most of Jen Sookfong Lee’s life, pop culture was an escape from family tragedy and a means of fitting in with the larger culture around her. Anne of Green Gables assured her that, despite losing her father at the age of twelve, one day she might still have the loving family of her dreams, and Princess Diana was proof that maybe there was more to being a good girl after all. And yet as Jen grew up, she began to recognize the ways in which pop culture was not made for someone like her—the child of Chinese immigrant parents who looked for safety in the invisibility afforded by embracing Model Minority myths.
Ranging from the rise of Gwyneth Paltrow, the father-figure familiarity of Bob Ross, and the surprising maternal legacy of the Kardashians, to the long shadow cast by The Joy Luck Club, Jen uses pop culture icons to understand her emotionally fraught upbringing. She also dissects how pop culture created both unrealistic ideals and harmful stereotypes that would devastate her as she struggled to carve out her own path as an Asian woman, single mother, and writer. With great wit, bracing honesty, and a deep appreciation for the ways culture shapes us, Jen draws direct lines between the spectacle of the popular, the intimacy of our personal bonds, and the social foundations of our collective obsessions.
McClelland & Stewart, January 2023