Cover Image: The Brightest Star

The Brightest Star

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Member Reviews

Anna May Wong's story is one that needs more attention!! As someone who broke the mold in Hollywood, the fact that she is not more widely known and celebrated should be a crime. As someone who has always loved any media about old Hollywood. I was extremely excited when I heard about this book and even more excited when I was approved to read it! Anna's story is one that I will carry with me and I want to learn more about her even more now.
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All that glitter of the bright lights in Hollywood does not lead its way to gold. Just ask Anna May, who gets her biggest break starring opposites of the legendary, Douglas Fairbanks.  Heavy racism as it recounts Anna May Wong’s life, chronologically.   Anna May had to fight her way to roles which major production (calling you out, MGM) as they felt she wasn't right for the Asian roles.  Heavy "Yellowface" (think of Luise Rainer's role in The Good Earth) of Hollywood, where MGM refuse to consider Anna May Wong to the leading role of the Chinese character O-Lin.  While it was fascinating to read about it, it felt as if I read a history book and as I was typing this review, I started to sound as if I was in the beginnings of writing a thesis. Needless to say, I had to rewrite it several times so that it does not sound as clinical as I started giving you facts and no emotion. That's when it hit me as to why I didn't love this book. It's facts and I had to relook to see, the author intended it to be a historical fiction. 

Please do not mistaken, Anna May was a real person and a trailblazer. This book just did not draw me in as a historical fiction but rather gives me a strong feeling of a recounting of Anna May Wong's life as she goes back and shares with us, the reader, her life's accounts.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperVia for this digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Very flat tone / writing. The voice was not engaging, and I could not get through this book. The character felt like she had no depth, and the exhaustive detail was just that... exhausting.
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Bringing actress Anna May Wong to life, Gail Tsukiyama’s fascinating historical fiction novel brings the struggles and the highs of the first great Chinese American actress’s life to the page. Following her from childhood to career to retirement, Tsukiyama has built up Hollywood and the discrimination of the early twentieth century in the pages of the novel to emphasize and celebrate the work that Anna May Wong did to change her life and Hollywood. Tsukiyama’s characters drive the story forward, and reading the world from Wong’s perspective makes the work, struggle, and celebration personal to the reader. Tsukiyama also brings settings into the mix -- Los Angeles, New York, Germany, Europe, and China -- and explores how they shaped Wong, her identity, and her career in the early twentieth century. In The Brightest Star, Tsukiyama draws on all narrative elements to immerse the reader in Anna May Wong’s world, even implementing other strategies such as letters to add to the narrative and explore Wong’s relationships and friendships with her contemporaries. The world of Tsukiyama’s novel is dynamic, engrossing, vibrant, and complex, as are the characters and situations that exist within the pages, and The Brightest Star brings Anna May Wong’s incredible, groundbreaking story to life.
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Much attention has been given to Anna Mae Wong since 2020’s ‘Hollywood’ series.
Gail Tsukiyama provides an entertaining historical novel of the triumphs and struggles of this legend. 
We open with Anna Mae traveling to New York towards the end of her life. As the train progresses forward Wong takes the reader back to her troubled and complicated family life, her social world, love affairs, struggles with alcoholism, racism, health, misogyny and her inability to continue to ascend the Hollywood system. She developed relationships with Baker and Dietrich and influenced Asian Americans and the arts. She left an impression at a time when roles for Asians were minor at best.
This is a welcomed look into a fascinating life that will set the pace for many biographies to follow.
Recommended with thanks to NetGalley, the author and HarperVia for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This was such a fascinating read about the life of Anna May Wong. A Chinese American actress during the 1920s through 1950s. I loved reading about her life growing up in Chinatown, trying to make a name for herself in the movies, and learning where she belonged. Her struggles and the things that brought her happiness. And it was fascinating yet disturbing to read how Chinese actors/actresses were treated during that time and then to see how far they have come in that industry.
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Meticulously researched, and well written story based on the life of Anna May Wong. This was a very good read that could’ve been made much better by better editing. Plenty of repetition.
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I throughly getting to know Anna May Wong, an actress I knew nothing about.
The author makes Wong come alive through her pages. A rising Hollywood starlet who often was sidelined due to her ancestry, Wong four over forty years to play roles in movies and plays that suited her.
Wong was a woman who was her own force and she helped establish Asian American celebrities in show business.
It’s a very good book.
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I tried to get through this book, but only made it about 1/4 of the way through before DNF. I'm truly not sure exactly why, because the writing wasn't bad & the premise itself was interesting, but the product itself didn't hold my attention.
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I read this novel along side a non-fiction biography/prosopography of Anna May Wong’s life and times, and honestly, I don’t know if that boded well for my review of this novel! In short, I found Tsukiyama’s fictive treatment of Wong’s life bland and depthless. I wanted interiority, a deep dive into Wong’s subjectivity. I wanted a view of Wong as a woman, as a human being, as a daughter, as a sister, anything, but not as a star.

Sadly, Wong’s characterization in the novel was one-sided, though to Tsukiyama’s credit the facet chosen was one that warrants highlighting: Wong here is portrayed as underfoot the racist boot of Hollywood, the racist weight of America and the White, Colonized world bearing down on her ambitions. I appreciate Tsukiyama’s attention to this racial and racist history; Wong was indeed a woman of her era, a victim of yellowface and orientalism. But I wanted more.

Perhaps I am not the target demographic for this novel; I know this history as a professional, I live its legacy as a Chinese-American woman in a state founded on White Supremacy. I am more than a target of racial hatred, more than a colonized human being, more than an Asian Woman, and so I wanted Anna May of The Brightest Star to also be more, to allow me entry into her mind, her heart, her existence as a lover, as a sister, as a friend. I wanted to know the facets of her that moved beyond the armor she had to wear to protect herself from the world.

I recognize that I already know the racist history Tsukiyama highlights, the weaponized language, the sneer against color, the snide remarks, and that this colors my view of the novel. I recognize that many other readers likely do not know this history. For those whose decolonizing journeys are just beginning, The Brightest Star will deliver a poignant and profound glimpse into Wong’s life as an Asian woman objectified and consumed as Other. Tsukiyama does a fantastic job peeling back the layers of glamour to reveal the ugly side of Wong’s stardom.
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DNF, I love Japanese authors hence why I requested this book but the genre wasnt something that engaged me unfortunately. I would still actively seek out the authors other titles as they writing was beautiful. The author had another title that I am keen to read so I look forward to exploring her works some more.
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Anna May Wong was the first Chinese American actress to become an international star, making movies in Hollywood, Berlin, Paris and London. Her first adult role was at age sixteen, and she made the jump smoothly from silents to talkies. Hampered by the Hays Code miscegenation clause, Anna May was repeatedly denied important roles. Hollywood preferred ‘yellowface’. Unable to kiss a Caucasian actor onscreen, her characters had to be secondary. Nevertheless, she was a huge success and confident she would be accepted for the leading role in The Good Earth in 1937. She was the obvious choice, not only the same nationality as the lead character, but a multi-talented, beautiful actress with years of experience. Being snubbed may have spelled the downhill slide in her career and health.

Undoubtedly Anna May was a fighter, but she lived in an era where her Chinese heritage put her at an immediate disadvantage. A third-generation American, she fought her whole life to prove she was as Western as anyone else, and her Chinese history held great importance for her. This is a detailed look at her film career, family, friends, travels, her mindset, her triumphs and her disappointments.

In this scrupulously researched novel, Anna May tells her backstory during a train journey to New York in 1960. It is lovingly written with meticulous detail, and the author’s devotion to her subject shines through. The emphasis on certain aspects feels very intense at times, as though the author had to include every minute detail to tell her story correctly. Hence, I noticed repetition, particularly around Anna May’s relationship with her father, her early childhood, anti-Chinese sentiment, and film costumes. Tsukiyama’s novel illuminates an important milestone in history for which Anna May was perhaps born twenty years too soon. This is an excellent addition to any readers’ library of early Hollywood fiction.
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This is a historical fiction novel of the life of Anna May Wong - a Hollywood movie actress from the silent film era through television in the 1950's.  She was considered the first Chinese American actress  in movies.  Because of racism and miscegenation, she was passed over for key roles such as "The Good Earth." about Chinese peasants.  instead the part went to Luise Rainer (a German American Film Actress) which was devastating to Wong.  The book is told partially in flashback, and I am sort of familiar with Anna May Wong's work.  This book (even though it is fiction) gave me some new insights into her life.  I am a huge fan of Hollywood and the movie industry so I enjoyed this book. 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperVia for an ARC and I left this review voluntarily.
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Historical fiction story based on the life of Wong Liu Tsong, a Chinese-American woman trying to make it as an actress in the 1920s-1950s, when the anti-miscegenation laws were in effect and Hollywood wouldn't cast Chinese in starring roles, preferring to use Caucasian actors in "yellowface." It was an inspriring story of a woman's passion and drive, but I wish the characters weren't brought fully to life and were more fully drawn.
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Thank you to HarperVia and to NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

I love Historical Fiction and old Hollywood, so when I saw this book on NetGalley I knew I was going to put it on my must-read list.

I knew very little about Anna May Wong before picking up this book, so I was excited to learn more about her.
This book starts out with an Older Anna May, and then jumps back to when she was eight.  It talks about the highs and lows of her career, being the first Chinese American actress in Hollywood.  There was a lot of racism and she fought for everything she got.  I really liked this one and will be recommending it to folks who come into the library.
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I love Anna May Wong, so I was excited to read a book about her experiences as the first major Chinese-American Hollywood actress. Unfortunately, as the book wore on, I found myself getting increasingly bored. It read like a Wikipedia summary of every major event in her life (I later went on Wikipedia and read her article - the book was like an extended version of the same information). There's so much telling and no showing. For example, characters die, Wong says she feels sad, and then the narrative moves on without any lasting impact. It disconnected me a lot from the book.
I did appreciate the exploration of Wong's connection to Chinese culture and how she fought racism in Hollywood, but even that quickly turned into a repetitive sequence of Wong auditioning for a movie -> her role is disappointing because Hollywood is racist -> she is hurt but uses the opportunity to showcase her authenticity and talent. The first few times, this was powerful, but essentially the same narrative was repeated for every single movie Wong was cast in, which got mind-numbing after a while.
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Book Feature: The Brightest Star 💐 

⁉️: Are you planning or traveling during the summer? 

I am currently in Berkeley, California for the last few weeks for work and research travel. However, Mike is visiting and we are excited to try new restaurants and travel towards San Francisco today! Being in California, I am near Hollywood, and Berkeley has the most amazing Asian restaurants. 

In this novel, the author of COLOR OF THE AIR, WOMEN OF THE SILK, and THE SAMURAI’S GARDEN brings the readers a lovely historical novel based on the story of the luminous actress, Anna Mary Wong - the first and only Asian American woman to gain stardom in early days of Hollywood. 

At the dawn of a new century, America is falling in love with silent movies, including young Wong Liu Tsong. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who own a laundry, Wong Liu and her older sister Lew Ying (Lulu) are taunted and bullied for their Chinese heritage. But while Lulu diligently obeys her parents and learns to speak Chinese, Wong Liu sneaks away to the local nickelodeons, buying a ticket with her lunch money and tips saved from laundry deliveries. By eleven Wong Liu is determined to become an actress and has already chosen a stage name: Anna May Wong. At sixteen, Anna May leaves high school to pursue her Hollywood dreams, defying her disapproving father and her Chinese traditional upbringing—a choice that will hold emotional and physical consequences.

After a series of nothing parts, nineteen-year-old Anna May gets her big break—and her first taste of Hollywood fame—starring opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad. Yet her beauty and talent isn’t enough to overcome the racism that relegates her to supporting roles as a helpless, exotic butterfly or a vicious, murderous dragon lady while Caucasian actresses in yellowface” are given starring roles portraying Asian women. Though she suffers professionally and personally, Anna May fights to win lead roles, accept risqué parts, financially support her family, and keep her illicit love affairs hidden—even as she finds freedom and glittering stardom abroad, and receives glowing reviews across the globe.

Thank you @BookSparks for the gifted copy! 

 #SRC2023 #TheBrightestStar #GailTsukiyama#BooksAndRec #BookSparks
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Enjoyed the writing and plot ! It was slow to start but really picks up in the second half . 

Thank you NetGalley
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The Brightest Star, by Gail Tsukiyama, is an amazing story about an amazing and brave trailblazer! Learning about Anna May Wong's life, her family and her friends was just fascinating. She struggled, as the first Asian movie starlet, so others wouldn't have to. It's just a shame that it took so long for her to get the appreciation that she deserved. 
Throughout the book I kept finding myself looking up more & more of the different people and events that are showcased in it. It didn't seem to matter whether I was familiar with them or not, I just needed to feel closer to all of it. And when I found out about the recently released Anna May Wong Barbie, of course, I had to order her ASAP!
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In this novel, Gail Tsukiyama imagines what it must have been like to be Anna May Wong, the first Asian American woman to really make it in Hollywood. From her early childhood dreaming of becoming a star while working her family's laundry to her later years trying to regain a foothold in entertainment, Tsukiyama tells Wong's fascinating life story. I enjoyed reading about her various encounters with other big artists and entertainers of her time, and about the strong opinions she held about racism in the industry. Her complicated relationship with her father, as well as as with the Chinese media, were aspects about her that I didn't know much about before. Anna was vividly brought to life, but the task of covering her entire life was perhaps a bit too large as at times it felt like periods of her life needed to be rushed over in order to get to the next big part. A biography would not have had to worry so much about imparting emotion through anecdotes and perhaps could have focused more on events and information. Tsukiyama instead had to make this readable and enjoyable while also covering a tremendous amount of information about an extraordinary person. The very fullness of Anna May Wong's life made it both a topic of great interest and a hefty challenge, so I give credit for that.
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