September 30, 2022



4 min read

BOOK REVIEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ELLA KELLEHER WRITES – Kirsten Chen’s newest novel, Counterfeit (2022), follows Ava Wong – a straight-edge Chinese language-American lawyer shackled to an agonizingly mundane routine of home chores and taking good care of her maddening toddler, Henri, who can’t appear to stop his day by day tantrums. Married to a profitable but all the time busy physician, Ollie, Ava is determined for a change large enough to shake the foundations of her comfy San Francisco suburban life. Change comes within the type of Winnie, a mainland Chinese language lady and previously Ava’s school roommate from her long-past Stanford days. After a fateful reconnection, we study that Winnie has develop into a tycoon of the prison underground, working a affluent counterfeit luxurious purse enterprise. Winnie, a grasp at studying and manipulating folks, sees the indicators of upper-middle class discord in Ava. In a second of profound weak spot, Winnie ensnares Ava into her scheme.

Chen delivers a masterpiece of fiction that goes past a easy “Ocean’s 8” fashion crime novel. On the floor, the reader enjoys a spectacle of glitz and glam, a slice of the luxurious way of life loved by rich international heiresses whose weekly allowance goes towards new Louis Vuitton suitcases or Bottega Venetta clutches. Nonetheless, beneath the glowing exterior is a brutally trustworthy deconstruction of the “American Dream” and all its white picket fence glory – a necessary piece of Americana that Chen’s writing eagerly and brilliantly places into query.

Creator Kirsten Chen.

Kirsten Chen, a Chinese language-Singaporean writer, personally witnessed the opulence at Stanford, very similar to the primary two anti-heroes of her story. Her first novel, Soy Sauce for Rookies (2014), received her worldwide acclaim by being the editor’s choose at O, The Oprah Journal. Her fortunate streak blended in with pure expertise afforded her latest launch, Counterfeit (2022), to be the chosen choose of the illustrious Reese Witherspoon Ebook Membership.


We first meet Ava Wong mid-interrogation with a detective who by no means really speaks. In a shocking first-person narrative, Ava Wong confesses her crime whereas additionally inserting heavy blame on the infamous Asian stereotypes of overworking and having robust Confucius-based household values. So why did she go together with Winnie’s schemes? Ava attributes her guilt to her unshakable drive: “What can I say, Detective? You don’t earn straight A’s all of your life with out being uncommonly aggressive.” In essence, Ava, and plenty of different Asian-Individuals like her have been raised to battle and protect their picture, repute, and honor in any respect prices.

Ava’s dad and mom and her strict upbringing are the sources of her complacent nature. Ava explains how for Westerners, such a cultural background might be laborious to know, however for herself and plenty of like her who have been “schooled within the supremacy of “face” – the figurative face… [Breaking] free from constraints to suppose for oneself turns into a Herculean process.” We readers can’t assist it. We’re pressured to sympathize with Ava – even going as far as to cheer on her prison misdeeds. In spite of everything, “a bag is a bag is a bag.” How dangerous can Ava and Winnie’s schemes actually be? Aren’t they merely dishonest the corrupt, capitalist system that cheats common folks day by day?

Counterfeit – The Borough Press, U.Okay. – June seventh, 2022 – 280 pages

All the pieces modifications when the attitude shifts midway by way of, and for the primary time, we hear Winnie’s facet of the story. Chen’s writing achieves one thing fascinating and subversive – she performs on the unconscious bias the readers might have within the first act of the guide. We root for the Asian-American, the woman raised by immigrant dad and mom. We imagine her sob story of a joyless, hardworking childhood that molded her into changing into a hole ex-lawyer in a damaged marriage who’s ultimately dazzled by a scheming Chinese language con artist. You need Ava to return out on high and for Winnie to reap the implications of her deceitful nature. Chen makes use of racial and cultural stereotypes to her benefit, deepening the narrative and forcing us readers to reevaluate our preconceived notions of foreigners, notably from East Asia.


In actuality, Winnie and Ava are on the identical mission. With out revealing an excessive amount of, I guarantee you that your feelings and beliefs in regards to the characters will probably be radically altered. The true core of Chen’s storytelling elicits that each Ava and Winnie, regardless of their vastly totally different backgrounds, are each quintessentially “American.” Each chase their desires at any price. Each are unapologetically pushed. And similar to within the films, each attain the sunshine on the finish of the tunnel.

After turning the novel’s final web page, I couldn’t assist however discover the duality of that means inside Chen’s spectacular writing. Lingering within the foreground was the “American Dream” – extra importantly, its misleading nature. Like Ava Wong, we American girls are taught to imagine that with the intention to be blissful, we should attempt for the three M’s: motherhood, marriage, and mortgage – a white-picket-fence life. However is that ever sufficient? It actually wasn’t for Ava and thousands and thousands of American girls similar to her. The “American Dream” and its beliefs of fabric wealth and suburban consolation are, dare I recommend, counterfeit.

Can we blame Ava and Winnie for chasing a faux dream by way of lies, expert conmanship, and fraud? Whether or not you agree with Ava and Winnie or not, Chen’s novel will maintain you entertained and dazzled — If not by existential philosophy, then by flashy luxurious and brilliantly entertaining literary twists.

LMU English main graduate Ella Kelleher is the guide assessment editor-in-chief and a contributing employees author for Asia Media Worldwide. She majored in English with a focus in multi-ethnic literature.

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