The Cosmos Book Club
The Cosmos Book Club is a gathering of self-identifying Asian women and gender non-binary individuals to read, discuss, and support Asian diaspora literature by women and gender non-binary authors. The group meets every other month to engage in thoughtful discussions around identity, politics, and life experiences. Through reading and discussion we aim to improve our understanding of complex issues and reinforce one another in the community.
Growing up in the US public school system, we rarely encountered stories that reflected our experiences or that of our families. The books we were taught to appreciate were primarily borrowed from the Western canon. We knew there was more out there for us and were determined to co-create a community-led book club to discover, share and celebrate it.
By reading and analyzing works of Asian women and gender non-binary authors, we aim to improve our understanding of complex issues, nourish our well-being, and reaffirm one another. We welcome all who want to take part in these meaningful discussions.
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The Cosmos Book Club #8: Severance by Ling Ma
The Cosmos Book Club is reading Severance by Ling Ma for our eighth gathering on Monday, August 5.
Severance is a satirical science fiction novel. Set in New York City, Candace Chen describes the world slowly obliterated by Shen Fever, which turns most of humanity into zombies that get stuck in an endless loop of their most savored routines. Though yet unaffected by the fever, Candace too clings to her routines of work until she finds a group of survivors run by IT specialist Bob. The book heavily examines capitalism, modern work culture, and the evils and pleasures of routine.
Partner with the Book Club!
Are you a food, beverage, or venue sponsor who wants to reach a community of Asian millennial and Gen-Z readers and writers? An author or publisher who wants to directly reach an engaged and active audience? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press: New York Times (“Book Clubs Get Especially Clubby”)
Past partners: Penguin Random House, Little A Books, Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Boba Guys, and Yooeating
Past authors: Crystal Hana Kim (If You Leave Me), Lisa Ko (The Leavers), Nicole Chung (All You Can Ever Know) and more!
Past Book Clubs
The Cosmos Book Club #7: If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim
APRIL 8, 2019
At our seventh book club, we welcomed twenty five women to the AAWW space for food, discussion, and a Q&A and book signing with Crystal Hana Kim, author of If You Leave Me.
We started the night with food from Yooeating, a Korean-American food pop up featuring new takes on Korean home cooking. The menu was inspired by the protagonist Haemi's favorite foods in the novel—gosari (fernbrake), sweet potato mixed with rice, anchovies, pig's feet, and home-brewed makgeolli (rice wine).
After introductions, we divided into three small groups for book discussion. During our conversation we mused over whether we would choose Kyunghwan or Jisoo (or neither), the appeal of bad boys, Korea's obsession with first loves, and the gendered notion of "unlikable" characters. We also recognized the ways in which war can influence us, including how Haemi holds onto her familiar hanboks as a sign of comfort amid the unpredictability of war.
We welcomed Crystal soon after and jumped into a Q&A session to ask our most pressing questions. We learned that If You Leave Me originally started as linked stories during Crystal's MFA program. Crystal shared anecdotes she learned about her family as part of research, emphasizing the resilience one develops during wartime. When asked on maintaining a sustainable creative process, she recommended finding a project that you love and believe in, even if no one else does.
Community Book Swap
MARCH 24, 2019
For our first community book swap, we gathered in Carolyn's home during the afternoon and snacked on dumplings, cupcakes, lard bread, cheese, donuts, wine & much more.
Attendees brought over seventy books of literary fiction, memoirs, essays, business/psychology, science fiction, fantasy and more. Some of the first books to go were Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata and Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyememi. We saw some of our previous Cosmos Book Club reads too, including All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung and A Thousand Beginnings and Endings!
After multiple rounds of choosing her top book pick, each woman ended up with at least three books to take home, excited to read their new picks.
The Cosmos Book Club #6: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
FEBRUARY 19, 2019
At our sixth gathering, facilitator Rosa brought forth a great icebreaker idea to draw out a scene in our future graphic novel memoirs. As folks trickled in, we each got to work busting out our best stick figure drawing skills to depict scenes from our childhood on index cards, snacking on chả giò along with lemon cake and strawberries generously brought by our members. After finishing our artwork, we each introduced ourselves along with our personal stories.
Facilitator Carolyn shared a poem Warsan Shire's "Home" that gives voice to the refugee experience. We talked about the meaning of home as separate from a physical location and how language can affect this mindset. We recalled the emphasis on keeping documents safe from our own childhoods, and how hoarding was a common characteristic in our households (contrasting Thi's family's sparse home). Our conversation veered deeply into the personal—from sharing the fear we hold in having and raising children to the resentments we hold toward our parents. The Best We Could Do dives deep into Thi's family history and own fears, and it was cathartic for us to have the space and time to explore the same.
The Cosmos Book Club #5: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
JANUARY 8, 2019
Armed with plenty of onigiri to share, we kicked off the new year with our fifth gathering to discuss A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. The group jumped in right away to chat about this ambitious novel. Was Ruth the character based off Ruth the author? (At least somewhat, yes). What did it mean that Nao never ended up sharing Jiko's life story in her diary? Can we create technology with empathy and conscience, as Haruki #2 strived to do? (A member shared a podcast on the biases of tech regarding this topic). What did we think of suicide and death as "finding an edge" to ever-flowing, unending life? We searched for these answers and more from the book, in history and within our personal lives during our conversation.
The Cosmos Book Club #4: All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
NOVEMBER 7, 2018
Munching on waffles and choco-pies, eighteen women introduced themselves by sharing where each most enjoyed reading (common answers: in bed, on the subway, in nature!) and jumped right into thoughts on the memoir. We ruminated on everything from how hard personal nonfiction can be (and what readers feel we're owed for a good story!) to our own family histories and the power of sisterly bonds. The group also broached the questions that Chung's complex story raised in our own lives. Our lively and provocative conversation definitely left a lot of food for thought!
The Cosmos Book Club #3: If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
SEPTEMBER 28, 2018
We gathered on a Friday night, topping off conversation with seltzer and bags of Hot Cheetos (we read it was author Fatimah Asghar's favorite)!
Many of us shared how If They Come for Us made us cry and the various meanings of Partition. We marveled over the many creative forms Asghar absorbed and reminisced over childhood memories bonding with friends while watching WWE. We explored our relationship with body shaming and what identity means to us without labels, both topics heavily explored in the poetry collection. Given the particularly heavy day of Senate hearings, conversation also wove in and out of discussing frustrations with current events.
After wrapping up at AAWW, we headed to a rooftop bar nearby for more candid conversation over cocktails!
The Cosmos Book Club #2: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
AUGUST 14, 2018
We divided into smaller groups for a more intimate book discussion of A Thousand Beginnings & Endings. We talked about the various stories within the anthology (rife with star-crossed lovers) and pondered whether knowing about the original myths would be more impactful before or after reading their inspired retellings. Members shared how different this YA sci-fi/fantasy book choice was from their usual reading material.
We were joined by Sona Charaipotra, the author of "Still Star-Crossed" for a Q&A session following our small group discussion. Sona delighted us as she described her future projects (including a book about an Indian girl Doogie Howser!) and gave a glimpse into the inspiration for her story (her first short story, no less). We ended the Q&A with a quick "this or that" round where Sona & members alike debated the merits of Twitter or Instagram.
The Cosmos Book Club #1: The Leavers by Lisa Ko
JUNE 11, 2018
Our inaugural gathering took place at Asian American Writers’ Workshop to discuss The Leavers by Lisa Ko, the story of a Fuzhounese boy named Deming Guo whose mother, Polly, disappears after not returning from her job at a nail salon. Deming is adopted into an affluent white family from the suburbs and assumes a new name to fit his new life: Daniel Wilkinson. He is a young man when someone from his past reaches out to him through the Internet, unveiling a bridge back to the life and family he had before the disappearance. Author Lisa Ko joined us to share in the discussion of her award-winning novel, engaging the audience in a Q&A and signing copies for attendees!