Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Diversity Can Exist in America, and In Romance Novels Too

By Morgan Kail-Ackerman
Contributor to The Underground

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang is a 2019 contemporary romance novel book that is sure to melt your heart, and keep you excited the entire time. Although this is the second book in the series, you can follow characters and plot without reading The Kiss Quotient, the first book in Hoang’s universe.

This beautiful love story is a modern Cinderella retelling, but this time the story is told with diversity and equality. It follows Esme, a Vietnamese woman, who is given the opportunity to live in America by Cô Nga, the mother of our romantic male hero, as long as she tries to seduce Khai into marriage. Khai, on the other hand, is dealing with the death of his best friend, Andy. As someone who is told over and over that he cannot feel emotions due to his autism, Khai believes he has a heart of stone and blames himself for Andy’s death.

The Bride Test has a perfect balance of everything you will want. It is a well-written story, gives fully dimensional characters, and keeps you interested with every page. On the whole, it is a romance novel that makes you fall in love with these characters, root for their relationship, and believe in everything they are fighting for.

In addition to being a solid romance novel, the story pushes diversity in the romance genre. Both of the romantic leads are people of color, and one is not American. Throughout the novel, Esme speaks in Vietnamese or choppy English. In fact, the last line of the novel is in Vietnamese.

The book also features a positive, well-written representation of autism from Helen Hoang, who is autistic herself. We learn from and support Khai as he figures out his autism and emotions. Esme is likewise not well-educated, and spends parts of the novel trying to find herself while seeking higher education. These aspects are not generally seen in a mainstream romance novel, so Helen Hoang’s novel brings a gorgeous new story to the landscape of the modern romance genre.

Nevertheless, The Bride Test can be a little predictable. It is a Cinderella-retelling and the plot is straightforward, so maybe that is where the predictability lies. Yet it is a positive predictability. You can guess where the novel is going, but that does not mean you will not enjoy the ride.

If you are looking for a contemporary and diverse romance novel, look no further! The Bride Test is for anyone who is looking for a beautiful and sexy love story.

Event Review: Bilingualism Unpacked

By Sara Shahein
Contributor to The Underground

On Wednesday, October 9th DePaul’s Office of Multicultural Student Success teamed up with the Latinx Center and Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority to host “Bilingualism Unpacked.” During the event, attendees listened to a panel of DePaul students and advisors answer questions about multilingualism – the panel’s languages ranged from Spanish to Serbian.

Each of the panelists were asked about their backgrounds and how they learned the languages they know today. Some learned their respective language when they were children, others learned the language in high school and college, and a few spoke the language first and learned English later. The panel noted that they switch languages when speaking with an adult whose native language is not English as a sign of respect and to make the individual feel more comfortable. They likewise discussed the importance of knowing another language and how it allows people to learn more about other cultures or even their own native cultures.

Each panelist was also asked if they had ever traveled abroad, if they spoke a native language abroad, and how were they perceived. A few panelists spoke about being seen as a local and felt more comfortable to take initiative and start up a conversation with locals.

Yet, when asked about the stigma that may arise from being bilingual, one panelist shared an example about having a conversation with someone in Serbian and mentioning that she was from Chicago. The opposite person immediately stopped speaking Serbian and switched to English. In response, the panelist said that she felt disappointed that the gentleman she was speaking to didn’t think she could continue to carry on the conversation if it was in Serbian, despite it being her first language. Other panelists explained that many non-English speakers or struggling English speakers tend to be looked down upon in society, instead of being given translators, assistance, or guidance to encourage them to continue trying to learn English.

The final question posed to the panelists asked whether they had ever denied being bilingual. Much to the surprise of the audience, a few panelists confirmed they had denied their ability to speak another language to others. One panelist explained that she worked in a law firm and it became known that she spoke and understood Spanish. She was quickly asked to translate and interpret, but she did not feel confident enough because she was still in the process of learning Spanish. She told the audience that, when it comes to work, she denies she is bilingual until she feels confident enough in her abilities.

Altogether, “Bilingualism Unpacked” showcased the reasons why someone would want to learn another language. It also taught other multilingual people in the audience how to deal with certain stigmas, present yourself when abroad, appreciate different cultures, and advocate for non-English speakers.

Event Review: Books on the Chopping Block with City Lit Theatre

By Olivia Muran
Contributor to The Underground

On Friday, September 27, DePaul celebrated Banned Books Week by hosting Books on the Chopping Block, a live performance by the City Lit Theater Company. The event kicked off at 1 p.m. in the John T. Richardson Library on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. Banned Books Week is an annual event hosted by the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association. The event raises awareness of the censorship that seeks to dull the intellectual flame of readers across the nation. Regarding the dulling of said figurative flame, the theme of the event this year was “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark,” urging everyone to “Keep the Light On.”

At DePaul, four members of the City Lit Theater Company performed selections from the Top 10 Banned Books on 2018’s list, including the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The list also featured many children’s picture books, such as Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss. In order to make it on the Banned Books list, these titles must have multiple formal complaints or ‘challenges’ filed against them in an effort to remove access in libraries and schools nationwide. Six out of the ten books on the list were banned because of LGBTQIA+ content, while others were banned for addressing teen suicide or political viewpoints.

The performance selections featured a mix of comedy and serious content. Many of the passages read showcased the importance of the book at hand, advocating accessibility as well as removal from banned lists nationwide. For example, the number one challenged book of 2018 was George by Alex Gino, which tells the story of a transgender character during adolescence. The passage performed at DePaul showcased the book’s child-like innocence of George’s experience, though the topic is controversial among certain book communities. As a result, Gino’s George has been banned, challenged, and relocated from libraries and schools.

The Top Banned Books list serves to call our attention to the censorship that books face when the content presents controversial topics. By filing formal complaints, censors restrict access to diverse communities and decide which books can and cannot be read. In turn, participation and awareness of events like Books on the Chopping Block during Banned Books Week continues to defend these restricted books and works to “Keep the Light On” when “Censorship Keeps Us in the Dark.”

Sculpt Yourself Launch Party!

Savy Leiser, a second-year grad student in the MAWP program, recently had her novel, Sculpt Yourself, come out through a new startup!
 
Come celebrate Savy at the launch party for the novel on January 25, from 6pm-8pm at DePaul in the Women’s Center: SAC 150!
 

 
For more information, visit the Facebook event page at   https://www.facebook.com/events/352769008869554/
 
Congrats, Savy! The Department is proud of you!

Event Review: Jeremy Mulderig at Unabridged Bookstore

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The stacks at Unabridged Bookstore

By Riley Jane McLaughlin
Contributor to the Underground

On Wednesday, April 23rd at Unabridged Bookstore, DePaul professor Jeremy Mulderig presented his latest published project, The Lost Autobiography of Samuel Steward. The autobiography is a compilation that Mulderig created using primarily sections from Steward’s 1979 original, unpublished, autobiographical manuscript, as well as the slim volume in which selections of autobiographical content of Steward’s were published, entitled Chapters. With the help of these two works, among other essays, novels, and sources on Samuel Steward, Mulderig produced the fascinating accomplishment that is The Lost Autobiography of Samuel Steward.

At the book launch, Mulderig introduced Samuel Steward by briefly recounting Steward’s extraordinary life. I, along with the other audience members, learned much about Steward as a person, as well as about his diverse experiences. Mulderig explained that Steward grew up with certainty of his homosexuality, and began experimenting in the sexual world at a fairly young age. He attended Ohio State University and worked as a professor before moving to Chicago and continuing his professorial work at Loyola University, and later DePaul. Besides being a professor, Steward was an author and a tattoo artist. He also shot pornographic photography and wrote gay pornography. He developed close, personal friendships with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tolkas. He also was very sexually active; in fact, Steward kept record of his sexual activity, which included over 800 men and 4,500 encounters.

Following his debrief on Samuel Steward, Mulderig read for the audience several excerpts from the autobiography, which focused on various significant periods of Steward’s life, most of which Mulderig had mentioned or alluded to during his introductory summary. After the readings had concluded, Mulderig answered audience questions and was available for book-signings.

Overall, this book launch was fascinating and unique, informing me on a figure of DePaul’s who was previously unknown to me. What additionally made this event so special—other than the stories of the comical and bizarre happenings in Samuel Steward’s life—was Mulderig’s affection for Steward, evident in his excited oration and emotional readings.

Event Review: Kathleen Rooney at American Writers Museum

rooney reading

 

By Paige Gilberg
Contributor to The Underground

On April 11, 2018, author Kathleen Rooney visited the American Writers Museum to celebrate the paperback launch of her newest novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk. On December 31, 1984, Lillian Boxfish strolls through Manhattan, recalling events from her past and confronting the realities of a changing America.

Rooney, an English and Creative Writing professor at DePaul, has published a variety of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction works. Her most recent book, Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk, is a national bestseller. Published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press, the novel has also received glowing reviews from the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Booklist, and other notable publications.

Wednesday’s event began with Rooney reading from the first chapter of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, titled “The Road of Anthracite.” The reading was followed by a Q&A session, facilitated by AWM program director Allison Sansone. The night closed with a book signing.

Rooney drew an impressive crowd and provided great insights on her writing process for Lillian Boxfish and beyond. She discussed Margaret Fishback, the highest-paid female copywriter of the 1930s and the inspiration for the novel’s protagonist. Other topics discussed included her interactions with Fishback’s son during the editing process and her publishing work with Rose Metal Press.

When asked where Lillian would fit in at present day, Rooney took some time to think. She determined that she would be an excellent cultural critic, maybe even a writer for VICE.

As for what’s next, Rooney shared that she has completed a collections of stories titled The Listening Room. She also shared that she is currently working on a WWI story about US Army officer Charles Whittlesey.

Reporting from London: Student Column

Caitlyn Ward is a DePaul English major, currently studying abroad. Here, she shares her experiences as an intern at Simon & Schuster in London.

Stepping into a brand-new country and culture wasn’t easy. Nor was thinking about the fact that I had gotten an internship at one of the “Big Five” publishing companies, my first internship ever, in the United Kingdom. I was terrified.

The transition, however, was easy. Going through DePaul into this program surrounded me with DePaul students, along with a support system through the company that operates this program, CEA. My first week in London was nothing but orientations, explorations, and most importantly, sleep – giving me enough time to get comfortable with my surroundings before throwing me into classes at London South Bank University and the responsibilities of my internship. Mostly, I had to adjust to the feeling of actually being in London. I always had wanted to study abroad, but now it was really happening. I couldn’t believe it.

Flashback to October, when I decided that I wanted to be a part of this study abroad program as not only a student, but an intern. When I was being placed for an internship, I was told it was a long shot to get into a publishing company in the UK. It was competitive, cut-throat, and I should have a backup. So, let’s just say that I wasn’t expecting some flashy internship—more like a mom-and-pop publisher that would take me under their wing so I could gain some much-needed experience. I was floored when I heard that I would be interviewing with Simon & Schuster and I was even more in shock when I got the position. My biggest dream was coming true within a few short months.

This being my first internship, I was a wreck. I wanted to live up to their expectations and perform at the level that they needed me to and beyond. This was my dream job, heck, this was more than my dream job, this was Simon & Schuster, the publishing company that most everyone has heard of. I was excited, but also scared – what would I do if I didn’t like it? Would I have to go back to square one? Those thoughts were in the back of my mind as I walked through the door on my first day, palms sweaty with anticipation.

Now I’m two months into my four-month internship. The first day was overwhelming and scary, but everyone proved to be welcoming and understanding that I’m the American among a sea of Brits. I read manuscripts, fan mail, search for the rights to photos, and find quotes for the reprinted paperback copies. Every day something new comes my way. I get to walk around the office and see the art for book sleeves, the new children’s book illustrations, and the bound proofs that aren’t even edited yet. The life of the book unfolds before my eyes and I get to be a part of the process.

The best part about this internship so far is that every single person in that office is excited when a novel comes to life. As my supervisor said: the feeling never goes away—you could work on one page of a story and when you see the book, bound with a shiny cover sleeve on it, you feel the same excitement as when you held your first published project in hand. I walked into this program and into this internship worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it or that I wouldn’t enjoy it enough to make it a career. But when I feel that heartwarming, adrenaline-filled rush that comes with adding to this world’s culture, I know I want to pursue a career in the book-publishing industry.