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A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK • From the award-winning author of Goodbye, Vitamin: How far would you go to shape your own destiny? An exhilarating novel of American identity that spans three generations in one family and asks: What makes us who we are? And how inevitable are our futures?
Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster, and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn't be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.
In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can't shake the sense she's hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than it provides answers.
In immersive, moving prose, Rachel Khong weaves a profound tale of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance—a story of trust, forgiveness, and finally coming home.
Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made? And if we are made, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome?
About the Author
RACHEL KHONG is the author of Goodbye, Vitamin, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction, and named a Best Book of the Year by NPR; O, The Oprah Magazine; Vogue; and Esquire. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Cut, The Guardian, The Paris Review, and Tin House. In 2018, she founded The Ruby, a work and event space for women and nonbinary writers and artists in San Francisco’s Mission District. She lives in California.
*A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2024, at: Oprah Daily, Today, TIME, Kirkus, LitHub, New York Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Vulture, BookPage, The Story Exchange, and The Rumpus*
"If you liked Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin, read Real Americans by Rachel Khong...[Rachel Khong] returns, painting on a larger canvas, in this story about three generations of a Chinese American family...Different voices follow, in a multilayered look at family and identity." —The Washington Post
"[Real Americans is a] plot-rich, spiraling, multigenerational epic [that] possesses the same heartrending humanity and deceptively subtle portrayal of characters' unseen depths [as Rachel Khong's debut]—so impossible to relate, so essential to everything. As in life, the love is in the details." —Annie Bostrom, Booklist
"By encompassing a family as a whole, [Real Americans] asks big questions about our lineage and futures, how much is really up to us, whether the fact of our pasts guarantee our fate, or whether we have agency over the lives we live."—"Most Anticipated Books of 2024," Literary Hub
“Khong masterfully explores a family splintered by science, struggling to redefine their own lives after uncovering harrowing secrets. Real Americans is a mesmerizing multigenerational novel about privilege, identity and the illusions of the American dream.”—Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
“Real Americans is a grand novel that explores the American psyche, dramatizing the fundamental American belief in the ability to change the world and improve humanity. Rachel Khong shows infinite and colorful perceptions of the world, which are often leavened with wisdom. Besides being a page turner, this book is also an eye-opener, imaginative and exhilarating.”—Ha Jin, author of Waiting
“Real Americans traverses time with verve and feeling. Khong captures how people can be strange to themselves, how bewilderment can be a site of creation (or change, or becoming).”—Raven Leilani, author of Luster
“Gorgeous, heartfelt, soaring, philosophical and deft, Real Americans flips the multigenerational novel inside out. Fate, honesty, our bargains with life. You will keep turning it over and over in your mind.”—Andrew Sean Greer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Less Is Lost
“Aglow with love in its many forms, suffused with questions of where—and to whom—we belong, Real Americans is a book of rare charm. Khong untangles the roots of family with a wry, tender attention that will leave readers as comforted as they are challenged.”—C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold and Land of Milk and Honey
“Rachel Khong’s gripping second novel explores how biology, our parents’ abstract hopes for us, sheer luck, and the forces of history itself make us who we are. Real Americans is both a tender story of the intimate relationships between people and a sharp examination of very big questions of ethics, politics, and fate.”—Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind
"A sweeping exploration of choice, chance, class, race, and genetic engineering in three generations of a Chinese American family. Khong’s follow-up to her sweet, slim debut... [is] on a more ambitious scale, portraying three generations in what feel like three linked novellas, or somehow also like three connected gardens...[Concern] for how and why we turn out the way we do animates the book on every level...Every character is dear, and every one of them makes big mistakes, causing a ripple effect of anger and estrangement that we watch with dismay, and hope. Bold, thoughtful, and delicate at once, addressing life’s biggest questions through artfully crafted scenes and characters." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review*