How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
From the author of The Queen of the Night, an essay collection exploring his education as a man, writer, and activist—and how we form our identities in life and in art. As a novelist, Alexander Chee has been described as “masterful” by Roxane Gay, and “incendiary” by The New York Times. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first collection of nonfiction, he’s sure to secure his place as one of the finest essayists of his generation as well.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, his adult reckoning with childhood sexual trauma, the jobs that supported him as he wrote his debut, Edinburgh (from Tarot-reading to bookselling to cater-waiting for William F. Buckley), and the election of Donald Trump.
By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.
"A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death . . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming." - Washington Post Book World
Twelve-year-old Fee is a shy Korean-American boy growing up in Maine whose powerful soprano voice wins him a place as section leader of the first sopranos in his local boys choir. But when, on a retreat, Fee discovers how the director treats the boys he makes section leader, he is so ashamed, he says nothing of the abuse, not even when Peter, Fee’s best friend, is in line to be next. The director is eventually arrested, and Fee tries to forgive himself for his silence. But when Peter takes his own life, Fee blames only himself.
Years later, after he has carefully pieced a new life together, Fee takes a job at a private school near his hometown. There he meets a young student, Arden, who, to his shock, is the picture of Peter—and the son of his old choir director.
Told with “the force of a dream and the heft of a life” (Annie Dillard), this is a haunting, lyrically written debut novel that marked Chee “as a major talent whose career will bear watching” (Publisher’s Weekly).
The Queen of the Night
“This book is a glorious performance . . . Enveloping, seductive.” —Karen Russell
A National Bestseller, the mesmerizing story of one woman’s rise from circus rider to courtesan to world-renowned diva—"a brilliant performance" —Washington Post
Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past. Only four could have betrayed her: one is dead, one loves her, one wants to own her. And one, she hopes, never thinks of her at all.
As she mines her memories for clues, she recalls her life as an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept up into the glitzy, gritty world of Second Empire Paris. In order to survive, she transformed herself from hippodrome rider to courtesan, from empress’s maid to debut singer, all the while weaving a complicated web of romance, obligation, and political intrigue.
Featuring a cast of characters drawn from history, The Queen of the Night follows Lilliet as she moves ever closer to the truth behind the mysterious opera and the role that could secure her reputation -- or destroy her with the secrets it reveals.