Reading with... Christina Hwang Dudley

photo: Vakker Portraits

Happily-ever-after really is a thing, because Christina Hwang Dudley, a lifelong Janeite, never imagined one day she would write her own take on Austen's most beloved classic. Inspired by Dudley's own experiences growing up in the South Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, Pride and Preston Lin (Third State Books, March 19, 2024) gives the beloved story a Chinese American spin. Dudley can be found in Bellevue, Wash., book in hand, if her fingers aren't glued to her keyboard.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

When perspiration meets privilege, will love school them both? Pride and Preston Lin is a fresh Chinese American take on the Austen classic.

On your nightstand now:

Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart, a combination history and personal story about Barbados, tracing the real and imagined lives of the author's ancestors, both free and enslaved. After reading Stuart's wonderful biography of Josephine Bonaparte, The Rose of Martinique (who knew Napoleon wrote such passionate love letters?), I wanted to learn more about the author's own Caribbean backstory.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The entire Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. I read all the childhood "girl" classics--you name it, I've read it--but it was the Betsy books I read over and over and wished I could live in. When my daughters were old enough to be indoctrinated, I took them to Minnesota on a "Literary Dream Tour." Yeah, we saw F. Scott Fitzgerald's St. Paul house and the banks of Plum Creek, but really it was all about visiting Betsy's and Tacy's houses in Mankato.

Your top five authors:

Jane Austen (duh), but more generally 19th-century British--Austen to Hardy--is my jam. I have a soft spot for Anthony Trollope, because he inherited Austen's talent for telling love stories with memorable and often funny characters. Speaking of funny, Eva Ibbotson and Anthony Horowitz make the list as well, leaving one spot for Laura Hillenbrand--no, let me add a sixth author, Daniel James Brown!--because compelling narrative nonfiction is right up there as well.

Book you've faked reading:

Any Nordic noirs chosen by my book club. Bleak and overelaborate ways to kill people just don't do it for me.

Book you're an evangelist for:

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Words cannot describe how I love this hilarious memoir of the Durrells in their time on Corfu between the wars. (Not to be confused with that abomination of a TV "adaptation" The Durrells in Corfu, which had nothing to do with the book besides character names.) Little Gerry, the budding naturalist, and his sidekick dogs and "Magenpies" are sheer delight.

Book you've bought for the cover:

They're always coming out with these gorgeous Jane Austen editions, and I covet them all. I'm a sucker for floral covers.

Book you hid from your parents:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I have no idea why, since my mom liked the book and movie as well. I think it was because I was fascinated by the "She was darkness and he was darkness" sex scene, which is so incredibly tame nowadays. Now you have to hide it because it's so politically incorrect!

Book that changed your life:

Jung Chang's Wild Swans. I grew up knowing my family had fled communism, landing in the Midwest, where my parents met, but this was the first book I ever read about China before, during, and after. It not only brought family stories to life but utterly demolished me.

Favorite line from a book:

This is constantly changing, but I went on a Raymond Chandler binge, and he was full of delights like this one from The Lady in the Lake: "She put a firm brown hand out and I shook it. Clamping bobbie pins into fat blondes had given her a grip like a pair of iceman's tongs."

Five books you'll never part with:

These would have to be some of the books I re-read every several years, just for the joy of it: Austen's Persuasion, Trollope's Barchester Towers, Eva Ibbotson's The Morning Gift, Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat, and Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe!

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Ooh, probably Pamela Kaufman's The Shield of Three Lions. I found it in a bookshop in London when it was new, and her vivid writing time-machined me to medieval England. My first and most immersive experience of historical fiction.

Books that made you cry your eyes out:

There's nothing like a good tearjerker, except I always seem to get to the saddest part when I'm reading in public. Mortifying. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger was one of those times. Anything by Khaled Hosseini brings on the waterworks. Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, which could have been called Broken for 95% of the book.

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