Such a Fun Age
This high-octane debut novel from Kiley Reid is an exhilarating look at race, privilege, and class. The novel centers on Alix Chamberlain, a well-to-do-entrepreneur, and Emira Tucker, a 25-year-old babysitter who’s facing an uncertain future. When Emira is accused of kidnapping Alix’s daughter, a page-turning story ensues. Critically praised, and a Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick, this novel is an essential text for life in 2020.
This novel by Diksha Basu tells the story of the Jha family, who have lived in cramped apartments for the past 30 years in Delhi. When the family comes into some money, they must reckon with what matters most when life takes them to the other side of town and they see the fine line between monetary wealth and social status.
A River of Stars
Vanessa Hua’s novel is an unbelievably compelling novel that tackles race, gender, immigration, wealth, and status in a moving human way. It tells the story of Scarlett Chen, who falls in love with and becomes pregnant by her boss at the factory where they work. What happens next is less romantic and more telling of the desperation of their circumstances. Scarlett is shipped off to the U.S. to start a better life for their child, but, when circumstances change, she’ll go to any lengths to protect herself and her child.
East Goes West
This novel tells the story of Chungpa Han, and his journey from Japanese-occupied Korea to the United States. He sees New York as a place to study, learn, grow, and build a business. But, as he travels throughout the country, he sees how values shift when greed comes into play, how disparity is heightened by industrialism. This novel is about the American dream, assimilation, and simply, ambition.
On Such a Full Sea
This novel tells the story of a not-so-distant-future America, where things are even more defined by class. Less invisible tension and income inequality and more actual walls, and defined social strata. This novel tells the story of working class Fan, who is a fish-tank diver, who heads for the Open Counties from her home of B-More (a.k.a. former Baltimore) in hopes of a better life. Her quest will force her to reckon: what is she running from and to?
Imagine a luxury resort in upstate New York, filled with healthy food, fresh air, and fabulous amenities that not only is affordable, but will pay you to stay there! The catch: you have to stay for nine months, and you have to deliver a baby… for someone else. Welcome to Golden Oaks (aka the titular Farm), where we meet Jane, an immigrant from the Philippines, who’s desperate to raise her station in life however she can. Read on to explore a novel that unpacks the extents we will go to secure a better future.
Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty
This award-winning novel unpacks the same themes as Boon-Jong Ho’s film, but in reverse. Award-winning author Ramona Ausubel tells the story of a New England family who loses their inherited wealth in the mid 1970s. What they’ll do to regain their status will take them on adventures unforetold, bring them distress and confusion, and make them reexamine what they’re fighting for. This novel is full of heart and humor, but, at the same time, poignant and telling.
This novel tells the story of a young girl named Mabel who befriends her advantaged, blue-blooded roommate at a prestigious boarding school. Mabel’s access to and intimacy with her new friend’s wealth is eye-opening and transformative. As she grows closer to the family, a shocking discovery leads her to see these people for who they really are—and the lengths they’ll go to protect themselves. Sound familiar?
Parasite may have won a ground-breaking four Academy Awards (for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Language Film), but the impact of this movie will extend far beyond awards night. From its stunning visuals, to its layered commentary on the invisible divisions that you can almost… sniff-sniff… smell between us, and the crippling barriers that prevent upward mobility in modern society, Parasite (now available to rent or download) is cinema and storytelling at its finest. It also is a thrilling ride for viewers, with twits you can’t predict, and a darkly humorous undertone.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into the topics this movie stirred in you, look no further than a book, the only known implementation as sharp as Bong Joon-ho’s directing. Cozy up with a bowl of Rom-Don and enjoy these reads that unpack themes of class and wealth imbalance.
Featured image: Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, and Ji-so Jung in Parasite (2019)