A bit about Janice Y.K. Lee

Janice%20Lee%20credit%20Xue%20TanHere’s a little something about Expatriates author, Janice Y.K. Lee.

Janice Y.K. certainly knows the world that she writs about.  though not an expat, she herself grew  up in a Korean home in Hong Kong.  She told The Wall Street Journal that she often felt that she  didn’t fit in.  “To be local in Hong Kong you have to be a local Chinese or English and I was neither of those things.” She relocated to the United States to attend boarding school and later Harvard University.  After graduation she moved to New York City and got a job Elle Magazine and later on at now defunct Mirabella Magazine.  It was there that she realized that if she “stayed on this career track, she would have not time to write her own book.”  So she left the magazine to enter an MFA writing program at Hunter College headed by noted author Chang Rae Lee.  She began writing short stories , one of which  would eventually grow into her first novel, The Piano Teacher.  After five years, and the birth of her four children (including twins), she was able to sell a draft of that book.   (Lee) says that her books each took five years  to write , and that she now considers this her “normal gestational period.”

Though many critics consider The Piano Teacher to be historical fiction, Lee says it was never her intention to continue writing in that particular vein.  ” I had always read literature that was contemporary, and that was my first love.  She further described her creative process for The Expatriates in an interview with blogger Sara Nelson.  “My books always start with an image or character.  And for this, it was an image of a woman who was just lying in bed.  She didn’t want to get up and it was the daytime, and there had been a dinner party.  I didn’t know where it was.  I didn’t know what it was, and I just started writing from that.  I was reluctant to write another novel set in Hong Kong, because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed…but it just ended  up organically that that’s where the story went.”  Further I think it’s a very sympathetic book about women.  It’s such a female world there.  Expat Hong Kong is a community  of women during the weekdays…men are not around.  So you become very good friends with other women who are leading the same lives as you.”  She told The Wall Street Journal, ” This book is about women and mothers–and that transcends nationality and geography.  It’s all  the stuff we go through and that  ultimately binds us.”


WWW.WSJ.com/articles/SB123145869715966177, Goodreads.com/author/show/1605157/Janice y.K. Lee


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The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

9780525429470   As an avid reader, I am always interested to see how authors approach their sophomore efforts. Do they continue to write in the same vein or somehow expand into something newer or untried?  Janice Y.K. Lee’s new novel, The Expatriates is a case in point.  As a fan of Ms. Lee’s first book, The Piano Teacher, I was interested to see how she would handle her second novel.  And though she stayed on familiar turf, geographically speaking, she did not disappoint.

While The Piano Teacher was a sweeping tale of passion taking place during and after World War II, The Expatriates is smaller in scope, but no less successful.  Set in contemporary Hong Kong, the novel examines the lives of its three main characters who live in or are associated with the expat community.  Shrewdly observed and at times sharply satirical, Lee paints a vivid and atmospheric picture of life in the privileged, isolated and at times claustrophobic enclave.

Told in an alternating third person narration, the novel details the intersecting lives of Mercy, Margaret and Hilary.  The youngest is Mercy, a recent Columbia University graduate who has come to Hong Kong to escape her lower middle class roots, and the lack of opportunities of her life in New York City.  Beautiful Margaret has come to Hong Kong as a corporate wife and mother who tragically loses one of her children about a year after the book takes place.  Finally we meet Hilary.  In the expat community where motherhood is widely considered the epitome of female success, Hilary struggles with infertility and a collapsing marriage.  And so the stage is set for the characters to grapple with loneliness, and grief as well as cultural  and class differences.  They struggle to find a measure of comfort and redemption in their lives and relationships.

An entertaining and satisfying novel, pick up your copy today at the JPL Circ. desk!

Some Possibly Perfect Readalikes for The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

If you enjoyed reading Matthew Dick’s combination of heart warming situations  and 51adEpBaqPL__SX330_BO1,204,203,200_humor do we have some readalikes for  you!

The Rosie Project by Graham Simision

Movie Star by Lizzie Pepper by Hilary Lefton

Days of Awe by Lauren Fox

The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman

Where’d you Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

How to be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

You also may enjoy Matthew Dicks  other books including Something Missing and Memoirs of An Imaginary Friend

Happy Reading  to all!

Questions-Part 2-The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

Some additional questions…

What does becoming a photographer say about Caroline’s temperament?  Do you think part of that choice was as a result of Caroline’s experiences with Emily?

How would you have reacted if someone from your past came to your door wanting to rehash a past issue?  Was what Caroline did effective?  Was what Polly did effective?  Was once-upon-a-time-1Caroline dropping the F-bomb on Mary Kate Dinali effective in the first place?

What did you think of the supporting characters in the book–Polly, Spartacus, Emily?

The author admitted “I think the best stories are the ones that end 10 pages too early.” Would you have ended the book with the confrontation or continued on as the author did?  Interestingly, the original ending was planned as the confrontation, but as the author has said, “I didn’t realize there was more to this story until I met the bully.”

(Sources: http://www.matthewdicks.com/matthewdicksblog/2016/2/17/how-i-became-a-storyteller, http://www.gradedtalon.com/33489/pov/interview with Matthew Dicks, http://www.courant.com/features/hc-newington-author-matthew-dicks)

Some Questions…The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

And now for some questions, dear reader…51adEpBaqPL__SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

The book was written from a woman’s point of view.  How successful was the author in doing this?  Did you feel as if he really understood Caroline?  Does the author feel authentic speaking as Caroline?  ( For the record, Matthew Dicks says he wasn’t fazed by this challenge.  “For seventeen years I’ve worked in an elementary school.  I’ve been  primarily in the company of women.  I felt, as much of an expert as a man can be on the way women speak.”  (Source: http://www.courant.com/features/hc-newington-author-matthew-dicks)

Do you think it was a good idea for Caroline to take Polly out of school to support her own needs?  Would  Caroline have gotten as far without Polly’s help?  Who influenced the other more, Polly or Caroline?

Have you ever had an experience in life that you’ve wanted to go back and do over?  Do you think going back and reliving the experience would have changed it?  The book also speaks to the power of bad experiences to shape us–do you think bad experiences have more influence in shaping us than good experiences?  Why do you think Caroline’s positive experiences didn’t resonate so much with her?  How did Caroline’s meekness affect Polly?

Obviously no one is the same as they were in High School, but what would you say is the most significant way in which you have changed?  How would you say Caroline has changed, or has she?

Until next time!

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs- Matthew Dicks

matthew-dicks-302Storytelling comes naturally to author Matthew Dicks.  Somewhat quirky himself, in addition to being an award winning elementary school teacher, a wedding DJ, and author of four previously published books, Dicks is also, according to his website, a “Lord of Sealand”  (Sealand, incidentally, is an unrecognized micronation, an unused former sea fort in the ocean off the shore of Suffolk, England.  For a price, you too can become a lord or lady of Sealand, if you so desire.)  Additionally he has won 18 (!) Moth Story SLAM Championships, a noted open mic storytelling competition.  It was this love for stories that led him indirectly to the plot of Caroline Jacobs.

He based the story on an incident that had happened to his wife when she was a schoolgirl.  His wife had been very hurt by a friend, and Dicks, after hearing the story had wondered, “What if an adult sought out her childhood bully to confront her about her long ago unkindness?”  As he said in another interview, “I  know many conflict averse people, and I often wish that I could be standing behind them, feeding them the perfect retort.”

(Sources: http://www.courant.com/features/hc-newington-author-matthew-dicks, www.staythirsty media.com/2-15-090).

Copies are still available at the Jericho Library Circulation Desk.  Pick up your copy today!

New Spring Book Selection!

Announcing our new spring book selection,  The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks:

Caroline Jacobs has lost herself. She’s a wife, mother (to a tattooed teenage daughter she avoids), Sears Portrait Studio photographer, and wimp. Asserting herself, taking the reins, or facing life head-on are not in her repertoire. So when Caroline suddenly cracks and screams “******!” at the PTA president, she is shocked. So is her husband. So is the PTA president. So is everyone. But Caroline soon realizes the true cause of her outburst can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, a scarring betrayal by her 51adEpBaqPL__SX330_BO1,204,203,200_best friend Emily. This act changed Caroline’s life forever. So, with a little bit of bravery flowing through her veins, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and confront Emily. She busts her daughter Polly out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback, which is twenty-five years in the making. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets begin to rise to the surface, and Caroline will have to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

A heartwarming story told with Matthew Dicks’ signature wit, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a deceptively simple novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives, and the bravery of one woman trying to change her life and finds true understanding of her daughter, and herself, along the way.

Pick up your copy today at the Jericho Library circulation desk.