Vanessa Hua

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A River of Stars

"A River of Stars splits 'the Chinese immigrant story' into a kaleidoscopic spectrum, putting human faces to the many groups—rich and poor, privileged and marginalized, documented and not—who come to America. Vanessa Hua’s debut is an utterly absorbing novel about the ruthless love of parenthood and the universal truth that sometimes family runs deeper than blood alone.    

     —Celeste Ng, New York Times-bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You

“How does Scarlett Chen—pregnant, her immigration status in peril—make her way in America without friends, language, and money? Vanessa Hua’s compelling A River of Stars is a story of resistance, survival, and self-determination in a world that is seemingly indifferent to the needs of the poor and disenfranchised.”
     —Min Jin Lee, author of National Book Award finalist Pachinko

"In A River of Stars, Vanessa Hua illuminates the lives of her characters with energy, verve and heart. Hua tracks the minutest emotional terrain of these characters while simultaneously interrogating the cultural and economic forces that shape their worlds. This book holds your attention until the very last page."

      —Emma Cline, New York Times-bestselling author of The Girls

A River of Stars is as pleasurable in its parts as it is profound in its sum. It is a road novel, an immigrant narrative, a family saga, a mystery, and the unlikeliest of love stories, all animated by a magnificent cast of characters who bear out John Berger’s assertion that ‘never again shall a single story be told as though it was the only one.’ Vanessa Hua’s debut contains multitudes.”

—Anthony Marra, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena and The Tsar of Love and Techno

"A River of Stars is a page-turner, a riveting story of parenthood, migration, and the choices we make to survive. Fierce and determined, resourceful and resilient, Scarlett Chen is an unforgettable protagonist you can’t help but root for. " 

 —Lisa Ko, author of National Book Award finalist The Leavers


In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream.

Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he’s overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince.

As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend.

Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van—only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that Boss Yeung is not far behind her.

A River of Stars is an entertaining, wildly unpredictable adventure, told with empathy and wit by an author the San Francisco Chronicle says “has a deep understanding of the pressure of submerged emotions and polite, face-saving deceptions.” It’s a vivid examination of home and belonging, and a moving portrayal of a woman determined to build her own future.

Cover image and author photo available upon request. 


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Marie Claire October Book Club pick

August LibraryReads Top 10 pick of new releases

"A marvel of a first novel" —O, the Oprah Magazine

Best Books of 2018, NPR

50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2018, Washington Post

The Best Books of 2018, Real Simple

Best Fiction Books 2018, Entropy Magazine

"Skillful...hilarious...heartbreaking....Hua wonderfully evokes the exigencies of lives at the margins of American culture by revealing Scarlett’s enduring ingenuity" —Publishers Weekly

"The most eye-opening literary adventure of the year...stirring...a spellbinding immersion"—The Must List, Entertainment Weekly

"Delightful...astute. Without wading into policy debates, Ms Hua dramatises the stories and contributions of immigrants who believe in grand ideals and strive to live up to them"— The Economist

"Page-turner...powerful look and immigration and identity"— US Weekly

"Unexpected, clever, contemporary"— NPR

Novel of the Week—The Week Magazine

“A rollicking story and a deeply serious consideration of immigration, motherhood, and belonging “ — Wall Street Journal

"Page-turning...culturally-adept...irresistible"—Library Journal 

“A stirring exploration of identity: what it means to be a parents, a lover, a friend”—Los Angeles Review of Books

"Astute...confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a twenty-first-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm" —Booklist

"The heroines in A River of Stars are strong, resourceful and eager to embrace the values of their adopted countries to overcome desperate circumstances. In highlighting the struggles immigrants face in their home countries, Hua gives a very real face to a population often marginalized by political theorizing and racial clichés. They are not outsiders, but the very embodiment of the American dream" — Shelf Awareness

"Bristles with timely detail and unexpected pivots, as two desperate women find family and community to support their struggle for freedom" —BBC

"Vanessa Hua's story spins with wild fervor, with charming protagonists fiercely motivated by maternal and survival instincts. "A River of Stars” is a migrant narrative tenderly constructed around Scarlett’s quest to carve a life for her daughter and herself at the risk of deportation." —USA Today

"Vanessa Hua's debut is a vibrant, fascinating look into womanhood and how so many women's lives are shaped by their relationship to the powerful men within them. Hua infuses this story with spirit and humor...remarkable"—Nylon

"Epic....vibrant" Esquire

"Richly textured page-turner" —South China Morning Post

"A page-turner about immigration, motherhood, and the lengths we'll go for the lives we want"—Refinery 29

""—San Francisco Examiner

"Alternately heartbreaking and darkly funny...a celebration of the perseverance, grit and ingenuity of immigrants"—PureWow

"Insightful, timely, and culturally resonant novel about motherhood and immigration. It’s the perfect pick for your next book club discussion" —Hello Giggles

"Stellar"  —Bustle

“Distinctly singular”—Bomb

"Absorbing" —New  York Magazine's The Cut

“Contemporary and far-reaching…Hua crafts a dynamic and likeable character striving for a fulfilling life” —America Magazine

"A story of immigration, survival, and love in its many forms"—The Rumpus

"Hua is an amazing writer, her prose tight and packed solid with emotion. She deftly handles several characters’ points-of-view, giving the book a well-rounded feel that never allows any character to become the enemy.” —The Literary Review

“As the world struggles with immigration, this story reminds us of the universality of the longing for a better life”—Stanford Magazine

“The book tackles many themes—immigration, identity, class, privilege, and parenthood among them—but does so with emotion and a stylish grace” —Literary Mama

"Looking for a great book? Here’s what Berkeleyans are reading this summer"—Berkeleyside

"Top 10  Debut Novels to Read Before the Summer is Over"—Signature Reads

9 Best New Books in August —Harper's Baazar

5 Great Debut Novels to Get You Through the Summer, Village Voice

The 25 Most- Anticipated Fiction Books in 2018Bitch Magazine

46 Books by Women of Color to Read in 2018, Electric Literature

33 Books to Get Excited about in 2018, Cosmopolitan Magazine

Top 20 Most Anticipated Book Releases, Squibblereads

Most Anticipated Books of 2018, What She Reads

Buzz Books Emerging Voices

Power Debut NovelsLibrary Journal

11 Women to WatchBookPage

30 Best Summer Reads, Elle

Best New Books Coming out in Summer 2018, Southern Living

The 25 Hottest Books of the Summer, Parade

Great Books for Warmer Days, Philadelphia Inquirer

45 Books You'll Want to Read this Summer, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

20 Books Everyone will Be Talking About this Summer, Mrs Darcy

10 New Books You'll Want to Devour on the BeachThought Catalog

10 Debut Novels You'll Want to Read Before the Summer is Over, Signature Reads