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.
“Superfan is a book you will want to simultaneously hug close to your chest and press insistently into others’ hands. There is such honesty, intelligence, warmth, and vulnerability to these essays that, when you finally put them down, you’ll feel breathless—a little sad it’s over, but ultimately full, invigorated, as if you’ve just ended an evening of deep, intimate conversation with your best friend. It takes a rare talent to pull this feat off—and Jen Sookfong Lee is that talent. I love this book.”
—Alicia Elliott, author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
“Superfan is about how deeply and, sometimes, disappointingly personal pop culture can be, even and especially for those of us for whom it’s not made. As she explores her identity through the books, movies, and movie stars who accompanied her along the path of self-discovery, Jen Sookfong Lee has written a memoir that is gorgeous and ugly, generous and petty, wild and self-conscious. In the process, she defiantly claims the right to be the good girl, the bad girl, and all the transitions in between. A thoughtful and exhilarating andbrave self-portrait of a woman demanding to be seen and who, at long last, is able to see herself.”
—Elaine Lui, author of Lainey Gossip and Listen to the Squawking Chicken
“Superfan vividly brings to life the joys and despair of obsessing over pop culture—both, feeling seen by it and being deeply hurt by it. Lee’s insights are devastating and tender, hilarious and profound. Superfan‘s introspective meditations on familiar pop culture moments effortlessly turn them into relatable and heartbreaking vignettes. You know that thing when a scene in a movie destroys you, and you have to spend a week reassembling your life, but you don’t know why? Lee has done the work to figure out why, and her writing about it is so vulnerable it might destroy you too.”
—Elamin Abdelmahmoud, author of Son of Elsewhere
“Superfan is an extraordinary work of personal memoir and pop cultural criticism. Lee’s exploration of pop culture’s impact on her as a child of Chinese immigrants is brilliant, absurd, and heartbreaking, and she shares her stories with so much warmth and generosity that by the end you will feel like her best friend. Each chapter had me laughing out loud and underlining her provocative takes on subjects like 90s heartthrobs, Gwyneth Paltrow, and the Kardashians. Eye-opening and luminous and so much fun!”
—Heather O’Neill, author of When We Lost Our Heads
“Superfan is a fresh reclamation of pop culture from an unexpected and exciting perspective. By juxtaposing her everyday life as an Asian woman with those of iconic TV characters and popstars, Jen Sookfong Lee spotlights how pop culture can be a mirror in which to both see and not see yourself, a gateway to somewhere else and a reminder of how stuck you are. It’s this complexity that makes Superfan a fantastic read!”
—Vivek Shraya, author of How to Fail As a Popstar and People Change
McClelland & Stewart, January 2023