Book Club / Culture

Jessie Tu on books that changed her life and ones you must read at least once

Book critic, journalist and author – it's safe to say when Jessie Tu prescribes a book that is a must read, we're heading to the closest bookstore and making it our weekend plans to see this book through.

Debuting her first novel A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing in 2020, her second book The Honeyeater will be released early next month, on the 2nd of July. Her novels tap into cultural and moral beliefs, and the complexities of emotions. Unafraid to be challenged, surprised, and ultimately, transformed by the power of the written word, sonical notes were her first love. Trained as a classical violinist for over 15 years, she also taught in refugee camps in the Middle East, while later volunteering with AUSAID in the Solomon Islands, to today, an Author. And if there is one thing that Tu has learnt throughout her life, literary, and sonical experiences, is to appreciate every moment as the last as nothing is guaranteed to last.

Below, we spoke with Jessie Tu on how the written words, such as Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, is as full of joy and optimism, as a ticket to a place like Disneyland is. Enlightening us that books are portals to new worlds, mirrors reflecting our own experiences, and sometimes, even conversation starters.

 

 

The last book I read …

The Piano Teacher by Austrian Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, translated into English by Joachim Neugroschel. It was my book club book. It’s a very original book, shocking and beautiful and horrible all at once. Let’s just say our book club conversation was way more fun than the experience of reading it. But – I LOVE the movie adaptation.

On my bedside table...

I am currently reading the latest issue of the London Review of Books – specifically, Ange Mlinko’s review of Rachel Cusk’s latest novel, “Parade”. My partner gifted me a LRB subscription last year for Christmas and my favourite thing to do in the world is read an issue cover to cover undisturbed.

My favourite book of all time...

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin– this book changed me so much. It is so full of joy and enthusiasm for the act of creating something – be it art, music, movies, in this book’s case – video games. Really, it champions this idea that we don’t all marry the most special person in our lives – that sometimes, the most special person in our lives aren’t the ones who fit neatly into categories of belonging and ownership prescribed by society. I am all for disintegrating the notion of an exclusive happiness within the strict confines of a heteronormative family unit.

The literary character I most identify with is…

Probably the character of Rachel from Fleishman Is in Trouble, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – who is the protagonist’s wife. I think her emotional core and her animating impulse was something I totally identified within, at least at the point in my life when I was reading it in my late twenties. Rachel believed that by being perfect and professionally and romantically accomplished she’d be happy, and when she discovers that nothing you do guarantees you happiness – well, let’s just say that was something that hit me hard, because I was (am still) realising that nothing in life is guaranteed.

The book that changed my life is...

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon. This is a monster of a book – it’ll change the way you think about love and parenting and what it means to be a good person. It follows the lives of parents whose children have various physical, mental and social disabilities like autism and deafness and prodigies and follows their lives over several years. It is profound in its story-telling, and exceptionally moving. Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk about love makes me weep every.single.time.

The best book I ever received is...

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon, which my brother gave me when I was in my mid-twenties. It shifted my thoughts about love and what it means to love.

The book I would give as a gift is …

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin. Because I think it’s like giving someone a pass to Luna Park or Disneyland. It’s just full of joy and wonder and child-like optimism.

Growing up, the best book on my bookshelf was...

On the Road With Poppa Whopper by Marianne Busser and Ron Schroder - which I purchased at BookWeek in primary school and re-read all throughout my school years. I loved the easy language and the pictures. It was completely transportive and I wanted to live in that book. It reminds me of the goal I have in writing (at least, at this stage in my writing life) which is to endow joy.

 

Secure yourself a copy of The Honeyeater from the 2nd July.

 

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