The Brightest Star: A Novel (Hardcover)
The beloved bestselling author of The Color of Air, Women of the Silk, and The Samurai's Garden returns with this magnificent historical novel based on the life of the luminous, groundbreaking actress Anna May Wong—the first and only Asian American woman to gain movie stardom in the early days of Hollywood.
At the dawn of a new century, America is falling in love with silent movies, including young Wong Liu Tsong. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who own a laundry, Wong Liu and her older sister Lew Ying (Lulu) are taunted and bullied for their Chinese heritage. But while Lulu diligently obeys her parents and learns to speak Chinese, Wong Liu sneaks away to the local nickelodeons, buying a ticket with her lunch money and tips saved from laundry deliveries. By eleven Wong Liu is determined to become an actress and has already chosen a stage name: Anna May Wong. At sixteen, Anna May leaves high school to pursue her Hollywood dreams, defying her disapproving father and her Chinese traditional upbringing—a choice that will hold emotional and physical consequences.
After a series of nothing parts, nineteen-year-old Anna May gets her big break—and her first taste of Hollywood fame—starring opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad. Yet her beauty and talent isn’t enough to overcome the racism that relegates her to supporting roles as a helpless, exotic butterfly or a vicious, murderous dragon lady while Caucasian actresses in yellowface” are given starring roles portraying Asian women. Though she suffers professionally and personally, Anna May fights to win lead roles, accept risqué parts, financially support her family, and keep her illicit love affairs hidden—even as she finds freedom and glittering stardom abroad, and receives glowing reviews across the globe.
Powerful, poignant, and imbued with Gail Tsukiyama's warmth and empathy, The Brightest Star reimagines the life of the first Asian American screen star whose legacy endures—a remarkable and inspiring woman who broke barriers and became a shining light in Hollywood history.
Gail Tsukiyama was born in San Francisco, California, to a Chinese mother from Hong Kong and a Japanese father from Hawaii. She attended San Francisco State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in English. She is the bestselling author of seven previous novels, including Women of the Silk, The Samurai's Garden, and most recently, A Hundred Flowers, and has received the Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. She divides her time between El Cerrito and Napa Valley, California.
“I can think of no better author than the incomparable Gail Tsukiyama to introduce readers to Anna May Wong. For all of her remarkable life, Wong struggled against the racism of Hollywood and the conservatism of her family. For every triumph there was a disappointment, but for every disappointment, there was also a triumph. Through it all, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens, Tsukiyama keeps her focus on Wong's bright, resilient spirit. A beautiful, haunting book.”
— Karen Joy Fowler, New York Times Bestselling Author of Booth and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
“In the riveting pages of The Brightest Star, Gail Tsukiyama once again invites her readers into an intriguing historical realm that remains in the shadows but should be widely known. Her latest novel lifts the veil on the rise of young Wong Liu Tsong, the Chinese American woman better known as the legendary first Asian American movie star, Anna May Wong, and shares the stereotyping and prejudices she was forced to navigate as she made her ascent. A fascinating portrait.” — Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author of The Mitford Affair and co-author of The Personal Librarian
“This stirring story about the drive and courageous spirit of a talented, barrier-breaking American icon works magnificently.” — Booklist (starred review)