Join us for a special Red Hen Press group reading with JENNY QI, LILY HOANG, and PETE HSU!
Focal Point (Steel Toe Books)
Winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award, Focal Point is a scientist's unofficial dissertation, a daughter's faithful correspondence, and a coming-of-age story. Written largely while Jenny Qi was a young Ph.D. student conducting cancer research after her beloved mother's death from cancer, the collection turns to "all the rituals of all the faiths," invoking Western and Eastern mythology and history, metaphors from cell biology, and even Jimi Hendrix, as Qi searches for a container to hold grief. The opening poem of this debut collection primes us to consider all definitions of the titular "focal point," as the speaker evaluates this moment of early loss beneath a literal and metaphoric microscope. Here, the past and future converge, but from here, what does divergence look like? What can a scientific mind do except interrogate and attempt to measure the unknown and immeasurable? These poems, at once tender and suffused with wry humor, diverse in form and scope, go on to navigate illness, early relationships, racism, climate change, mass shootings, and the COVID-19 pandemic, unflinching in the face of death and the darker side of human nature. At its core, Focal Point is an uncompromising interrogation of how to be alive in the world, always loving something that has been or is in the process of being lost.
Jenny Qi is the author of Focal Point, winner of the 2020 Steel Toe Books Poetry Award. Her essays and poems have been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and elsewhere. A 2022-23 Brown Handler Resident, she has also received fellowships and support from Tin House, Omnidawn, Kearny Street Workshop, and the San Francisco Writers Grotto. She grew up mostly in Las Vegas and now lives in San Francisco, where she completed her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology.
Underneath (Red Hen Press)
Over a five-year period, Martha Johnson murders her four children, one by one, in order to punish her husband when they argue, but Martha is no ordinary serial killer. She murders her children by using the bulk of her 250-pound body to suffocate them. Unlike other fictionalized true-crime novels, Underneath neither valorizes nor focuses on the specific acts of violence. Instead, it attempts to understand how feelings of powerlessness, the residue of trauma, and the need to find justice in a world that refuses to give a fat body justice finds its only respite through murder.
Lily Hoang is the author of five books, including A Bestiary (finalist for a PEN USA Nonfiction Book Award) and Changing (recipient of a PEN Open Books Award). She has been a Mellon Fellow at Rhodes University in South Africa, a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Cornell College, and a Cultural Exchange Faculty Fellow at Wuhan University in China. To date, she has taught creative writing on five continents. She currently teaches in the MFA Program at UC San Diego. She lives in San Diego, California.
If I Were the Ocean, I'd Carry You Home (Red Hen Press)
Full of warmth, terror, and underhanded humor, If I Were the Ocean, I'd Carry You Home, Pete Hsu's debut story collection, captures the essence of surviving in a life set adrift. Children and young people navigate a world where the presence of violence and death rear themselves in everyday places: Vegas casinos, birthday parties, church services, and sunny days at the beach. Each story is a meditation on living in a world not made for us--the pervasive fear, the adaptations, the unexpected longings. A gripping and energetic debut, Hsu's writing beats with the naked rhythms of an unsettled human heart.
Pete Hsu is a Taiwanese American writer based in Pasadena, CA. He is the author of the experimental chapbook, There is a Man (Tolsun Books). His work has also been featured in several journals and anthologies, including Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s The Margins, F(r)iction, The Los Angeles Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. He was a 2017 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow as well as the 2017 PEN in the Community Writer in Residence.