BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung [in Booklist]

“I suppose I should warn you that I tell a story like a woman: looping into myself, interrupting,” announces Catherine Chung’s protagonist Katherine. “Things have never seemed straightforward to me; the path has never been clear.” As the child of a WWII veteran father and Chinese immigrant mother in 1950s Virginia, Katherine stood out first as a racial anomaly, and later for her mathematical prowess – she becomes one of MIT’s first female graduate students in the 1960s and gains uneasy admittance, but never acceptance, in her male-dominated profession.

Beyond her mixed-race heritage, her personal identity, too, is an unknown variable when she learns of her ambiguous parentage. A leather-bound notebook, myths and fairytales, the Holocaust, comfort women, disappearing strangers, and materializing relatives all factor into Katherine’s quest toward self-discovery.

In clear acknowledgement that Chung’s extraordinary sophomore novel needs no enhancements, prolific narrator Cassandra Campbell maintains a diligent, taut narration, (thankfully) avoiding unnecessary characterizations despite a tempting global cast of immigrants and internationals. This Muse promises revelatory inspiration.

Review: “Media,” Booklist, October 15, 2019

Published: 2019

Readers: Adult


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