Welcome to MarieClaire.com's Q&A author series—the spot where we ask the #ReadwithMC author-of-the-month five burning questions about her latest book. This month, we're reading A River of Stars (opens in new tab) by award-winning author Vanessa Hua (opens in new tab). If you're interested in the novel and looking for some friends to talk about it with, find out how to participate in MarieClaire.com's new interactive monthly book club here (opens in new tab).
While pregnant with her child, Scarlett emigrates from China to America to live in a secret maternity home so her newborn can gain access to U.S. citizenship—an experience many people across the world can relate to, and author Vanessa Hua witnessed in real life. With the issue of immigration (opens in new tab) currently centerstage in American politics, Hua's debut novel is a timely depiction of chasing the American Dream.
Here, Hua explains the importance of telling Chinese Americans' stories through her novel's exploration of motherhood and identity in a complicated mix of love and adventure.
Marie Claire: What inspired you to write A River of Stars?
Vanessa Hua: I was pregnant and living in Southern California when I started writing the novel and began to hear about these maternity hotels in the suburbs east of L.A. The neighbors were baffled—they were wondering why all of these Chinese women were coming and going out of the homes, why the garbage cans were stacked high with diapers and empty cans of formula. To me, it sounded like a brothel in reverse. It turned out that they were coming here a month or two before their due date so that their children would get U.S. citizenships. Since I was pregnant at the time myself, in one of the most vulnerable times in my life, I wondered what it was like to be so far from friends and family. What did U.S. citizenship mean to these women? Why would they go through so much trouble to come here? That's what inspired me.
MC: Why should people read this book?
VH: We live in a time when immigrants and the children of immigrants are under attack—we’re turned into statistics and stereotypes. When you deny someone their story, you deny them their humanity. A River of Stars really shows that the Chinese-American community is not a monolith—we have very different histories, dreams, ambitions, and flaws. I hope people feel invited into a world that they may not know about, or maybe recognize aspects of themselves in these characters that they’ll want to share this experience with others.
America's immigration story is not just something for the history books—it’s constantly renewed by the latest arrival. Our country takes pride in being a nation of immigrants, but it has a complicated relationship with the people who are still arriving. Because my work looks at these communities it can feel timely, but it’s timeless in the context of America.
MC: Is there one character you relate to the most?
VH: They’re all born from my imagination, but I think both Scarlett and Daisy. Someone once asked me, “Which character would you want to hang out with?” In some ways it’s Daisy—the headstrong teenager who has a way with fireballs. But with Scarlett I can really relate to her when she wonders what would happen to her identity once she has kids. Would she still be able to fulfill her dreams and ambitions? Before having kids, I also wondered who will I be? Will I ever write a book? It's true, I now have less time than ever before, but I feel like my heart, mind, and imagination have really opened up since.
MC: Who would you cast as the main characters in a movie?
VH: I love Constance Wu (opens in new tab). She was so good in Crazy Rich Asians. Likewise with Michelle Yeoh. At first she came off as the villain, but then you begin to understand her motivations and her ability to change. There's a Mama Fang character in my novel that she would be amazing to play.
MC: What's currently on your nightstand?
VH: I'm reading Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me (opens in new tab), and I just finished reading Kathy Wang’s Family Trust (opens in new tab). They're both really compelling as sprawling family epics.
You can purchase a copy of A River of Stars here (opens in new tab).
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
Black Friday Beauty Deals Live: Sephora, Charlotte Tilbury, Dyson, and More
We hunted down the best beauty deals of Black Friday weekend so you don't have to.
By Jenny Hollander
The Best Holiday Sweaters Offer Plenty of Festive Flair
Far from the "ugly" Christmas sweaters you're used to.
By Emma Childs
Blackhead Removers for Clearer, Cleaner Skin
By Samantha Holender
#ReadWithMC Reviews 'Mika in Real Life'
"When you are craving a loveable story with depth and true character development—this should be your next read."
By Brooke Knappenberger
'Token Black Girl' Is Our October Book Club Pick
Read an excerpt from Danielle Prescod's new memoir, here, then dive in with us throughout the month.
By Brooke Knappenberger
25 Books by Latinx Authors You Should Read Immediately
Stories so good, you won't need a bookmark.
By Bianca Rodriguez
Join #ReadWithMC: Marie Claire's Virtual Monthly Book Club
Never feel guilty about skipping book club again.
By The Editors
'Mika In Real Life' Is Our September Book Club Pick
Read an excerpt from Emiko Jean's new novel, here, then dive in with us throughout the month.
By Jenny Hollander
Read an Excerpt From Sarah MacLean's 'Heartbreaker'
The latest entry in MacLean's 'Hell's Belles' universe is a delightfully feminist twist on Regency-era romance romps.
By Sarah MacLean
The 32 Best Self-Help Books for Women to Read in 2022
Consider them a form of self-care.
By Rachel Epstein
Take a Tour of Ali Wentworth's Awe-Inspiring Personal Library
The author and actress shares her favorite reads in 'Shelf Portrait.'
By Neha Prakash