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Susan Choi - book author

Susan Choi was born in South Bend, Indiana and was raised there and in Houston, Texas. She studied literature at Yale and writing at Cornell, and worked for several years as a fact-checker for The New Yorker.

Her first novel, The Foreign Student, won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction, and her second novel, American Woman, was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize.

With David Remnick she co-edited the anthology Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, and her non-fiction has appeared in publications such as Vogue, Tin House, Allure, O, and The New York Times and in anthologies such as Money Changes Everything and Brooklyn Was Mine.

A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, Pete Wells and their sons Dexter and Elliot

Susan Choi is the author of books: Trust Exercise, My Education, American Woman, A Person of Interest, Camp Tiger, The Foreign Student, Trust Exercise: Sneak Peek, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from The New Yorker, Here She Comes Now: Essays on Women in Music, The Martyred

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Author Books

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01
Pulitzer Finalist Susan Choi's narrative-upending novel about what happens when a first love between high school students is interrupted by the attentions of a charismatic teacher

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.

The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls—until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true—though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place—revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.

As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Trust Exercise will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.
02
An intimately charged novel of desire and disaster from the author of American Woman and A Person of Interest

Regina Gottlieb had been warned about Professor Nicholas Brodeur long before arriving as a graduate student at his prestigious university high on a pastoral hill. He’s said to lie in the dark in his office while undergraduate women read couplets to him. He’s condemned on the walls of the women’s restroom, and enjoys films by Roman Polanski. But no one has warned Regina about his exceptional physical beauty—or his charismatic, volatile wife.

My Education is the story of Regina’s mistakes, which only begin in the bedroom, and end—if they do—fifteen years in the future and thousands of miles away. By turns erotic and completely catastrophic, Regina’s misadventures demonstrate what can happen when the chasm between desire and duty is too wide to bridge.
03
Susan Choi's first novel, The Foreign Student, was published to remarkable critical acclaim. The New Yorker called it "an auspicious debut," and the Los Angeles Times touted it as "a novel of extraordinary sensibility and transforming strangeness," naming it one of the ten best books of the year. American Woman, this gifted writer's second book, is a novel of even greater scope and dramatic complexity, about a young Japanese-American radical caught in the militant underground of the mid-1970s.

When 25-year-old Jenny Shimada steps out of the Rhinecliff train station in New York's Hudson Valley, the last person she expects to see is Rob Frazer, a shadowy figure from her previous life. On the lam for an act of violence against the American government, Jenny agrees to take on the job of caring for three younger fugitives whom Frazer has spirited out of California. One of them, the granddaughter of a wealthy newspaper magnate in San Francisco, has become a national celebrity. Kidnapped by a homegrown revolutionary group, Pauline shocked America when she embraced her captors' ideology, denouncing family and class to enlist in their radical cell.

American Woman unfolds the story of Jenny and her charges -- Pauline, Juan, and Yvonne, the remains of the busted revolutionary cadre -- as they pursue their destinies from an old farmhouse in upstate New York back to California. Provocative, suspenseful, and often wickedly comic, the novel explores the psychology of the young radicals -- outsiders all -- as isolation and paranoia inevitably undermine their ideals. American Woman is a tour de force with chilling resonance for readers today.
04
Professor Lee, an Asian-born mathematician nearing retirement age, would seem the last person likely to attract the attention of FBI agents. Yet after a popular young colleague becomes the latest victim of a serial bomber, Lee’s detached response and maladroit behavior lead the FBI, the national news media, and even his own neighbors to regard him with damning suspicion.

Amid campus-wide grief over the murder, Lee receives a cryptic letter from a figure out of his past. The letter unearths a lifetime of shortcomings – toward his dead wife, his estranged only daughter, and a long-denied son. Caught between his guilty recollections and the scrutiny of the murder investigation, determined to face his tormentor and exonerate himself, Lee sets off on a journey that will bring him face-to-face with his past – and that might even win him redemption.
05
Every year, a boy and his family go camping at Mountain Pond.

Usually, they see things like an eagle fishing for his dinner, a salamander with red spots on its back, and chipmunks that come to steal food while the family sits by the campfire.

But this year is different. This year, the boy is going into first grade, and his mother is encouraging him to do things on his own, just like his older brother. And the most different thing of all . . . this year, a tiger comes to the woods.
06
"This wonderful hybrid of a novel--a love story, a war story, a novel of manners--introduces a writer of enchanting gifts, a beautiful heart wedded to a beautiful imagination. How else does Susan Choi so fully inhabit characters from disparate backgrounds, with such brilliant wit and insight? The Foreign Student stirs up great and lovely emotions."  — Francisco Goldman, author of The Ordinary Seaman

The Foreign Student is the story of a young Korean man, scarred by war, and the deeply troubled daughter of a wealthy Southern American family. In 1955, a new student arrives at a small college in the Tennessee mountains. Chuck is shy, speaks English haltingly, and on the subject of his earlier life in Korea he will not speak at all. Then he meets Katherine, a beautiful and solitary young woman who, like Chuck, is haunted by some dark episode in her past. Without quite knowing why, these two outsiders are drawn together, each sensing in the other the possibility of salvation. Moving between the American South and South Korea, between an adolescent girl's sexual awakening and a young man's nightmarish memories of war, The Foreign Student is a powerful and emotionally gripping work of fiction.
07
NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2019 by Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Electric Literature, The Millions, PopSugar, The Philadelphia Inquirer, PW, Lit Hub, Bustle, and The Huffington Post

In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive in a rarified bubble, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes. When within this striving “Brotherhood of the Arts,” two freshmen, David and Sarah, fall headlong into love, their passion does not go unnoticed—or untoyed with—by anyone, especially not by their charismatic acting teacher, Mr. Kingsley.

The outside world of family life and economic status, of academic pressure and of their future adult lives, fails to penetrate this school’s walls—until it does, in a shocking spiral of events that catapults the action forward in time and flips the premise upside-down. What the reader believes to have happened to David and Sarah and their friends is not entirely true—though it’s not false, either. It takes until the book’s stunning coda for the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place—revealing truths that will resonate long after the final sentence.

As captivating and tender as it is surprising, Trust Exercise will incite heated conversations about fiction and truth, and about friendships and loyalties, and will leave readers with wiser understandings of the true capacities of adolescents and of the powers and responsibilities of adults.
08
New York City is not only The "New Yorker" magazine's place of origin and its sensibility's lifeblood, it is the heart of American literary culture. Wonderful Town, an anthology of superb short fiction by many of the magazine's most accomplished contributors, celebrates the seventy-five-year marriage between a preeminent publication and its preeminent context with this collection of forty-four of its best stories from (so to speak) home.
East Side? Philip Roth's chronically tormented alter ego Nathan Zuckerman has just moved there, in "Smart Money." West Side? Isaac Bashevis Singer's narrator mingles with the customers in "The Cafeteria" (who debate politics and culture in four or five different languages) and becomes embroiled in an obsessional romance. And downtown, John Updike's Maples have begun their courtship of marital disaster, in "Snowing in Greenwich Village." John Cheever, John O'Hara, Lorrie Moore, Irwin Shaw, Woody Allen, Laurie Colwin, Saul Bellow, J. D. Salinger, Jean Stafford, Vladimir Nabokov--they and many other stellar literary guides to the city will be found in these pages.
Wonderful Town touches on some of the city's famous places and stops at some of its more obscure corners, but the real guidebook in and between its lines is to the hearts and the minds of those who populate the metropolis built by its pages. Like all good fiction, these stories take particular places, particular people, and particular events and turn them into dramas of universal enlightenment and emotional impact. The five boroughs are the five continents. New York is every great and ordinary place. Each life in it, and each life in Wonderful Town, is the life of us all.
09
Whether it was Patti Smith's angry moan, Nina Simone's guttural growl, or Dolly Parton's towering hair and sweet voice, women have been a musical force to be reckoned with, inspired by, and paid attention to. In Small Flowers Crack Concrete, today's biggest and brightest writers tackle their favorite female musicians and the effect they've had on their own lives. From Rosie Schaap writing about Sandy Denny to Susan Choi writing about Stevie Nicks to Elissa Schappell writing about Kim Gordon, Small Flowers Crack Concrete thoughtfully and lovingly discusses the extreme badassery of the women who break through all the barriers to truly rock.
10
"Written in a mood of total austerity; and yet the passion of the book is perpetually beating up against its seemingly barren surface. . . . I am deeply moved." -Philip Roth

During the early weeks of the Korean War, Captain Lee, a young South Korean officer, is ordered to investigate the kidnapping and mass murder of North Korean ministers by Communist forces. For propaganda purposes, the priests are declared martyrs, but as he delves into the crime, Lee finds himself asking: What if they were not martyrs? What if they renounced their faith in the face of death, failing both God and country? Should the people be fed this lie? Part thriller, part mystery, part existential treatise, The Martyred is a stunning meditation on truth, religion, and faith in times of crisis.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.