Real Americans

Real Americans

by Rachel Khong
Real Americans

Real Americans

by Rachel Khong


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Notes From Your Bookseller

Other people's families are always more interesting that our own and we really didn't want to leave Lily and Nick (and the rest of the cast) behind… Grab a friend, this is a family you'll want to talk about.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER READ WITH JENNA’S MAY BOOK CLUB PICK • From the award-winning author of Goodbye, Vitamin: How far would you go to shape your own destiny? An exhilarating novel of American identity that spans three generations in one family and asks: What makes us who we are? And how inevitable are our futures? 

"Mesmerizing"—Brit Bennett • "A page turner.”—Ha Jin • “Gorgeous, heartfelt, soaring, philosophical and deft"—Andrew Sean Greer • "Traverses time with verve and feeling."—Raven Leilani

Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster, and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn't be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.

In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can't shake the sense she's hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than it provides answers.

In immersive, moving prose, Rachel Khong weaves a profound tale of class and striving, race and visibility, and family and inheritance—a story of trust, forgiveness, and finally coming home.

Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made? And if we are made, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593537251
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/30/2024
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 46,278
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

About The Author
RACHEL KHONG is the author of Goodbye, Vitamin, winner of the California Book Award for First Fiction and named a Best Book of the Year by NPR; O, The Oprah Magazine; Vogue; and Esquire. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Cut, The Guardian, The Paris Review, and Tin House. In 2018, she founded The Ruby, a work and event space for women and nonbinary writers and artists in San Francisco’s Mission District. She lives in California.

Read an Excerpt

BEIJING, 1966 

She isn’t afraid, but he is. They stand, in the darkness, before a glass case of old things. A Ming dynasty inkstone. A chrysanthemum carved from horn. A Song painting stamped with ruby-red collector’s seals. And on a silk pillow, so slight it could be missed: an ancient lotus seed with a legend behind it. 

The story goes like this: One night, long ago, a dragon emerged from the sky and dropped this seed into the emperor’s open hand. His advisors huddled near to examine it. What fortune! they remarked. This seed would grant the emperor his greatest wish. Unfortunately, he died that night, while contemplating his options. He might have asked for immortality. 

She takes a hammer from her knapsack. With all her strength, she strikes the glass. It makes a beautifully clear sound as it shatters. Quickly, the two get to work, securing the relics. It is an attempt to spare them from the Red Guards’ destruction—an act of protest, small, against a movement she’s no match for. 

The seed is unspectacular, so old it resembles a stone. Yet she’s aware it contains an entire future: roots, stems, leaves, blooms, to seeds once more—encoded, like she is. Her heart pumps blood, her lungs take in air, she sleeps, wakes, eats, excretes. Will her life be long or short? What has she chosen, she wonders, and what has chosen her? She likes the fragrance of gardenias, but not the scent of lipstick. She doesn’t mind the rain. She is in love, which feels, to her, at once easy and hard, elemental and ungraspable—like vanishing and eternity at the same time. She wants to ask of every person she meets: Is it this way for you?

“Hurry,” her companion says. 

A door slams, loudly. Someone is here. The footsteps draw closer. They flee. 

Outside, she opens her fist. On her bleeding palm rests a stolen seed. The story is fiction. And yet: Why shouldn’t the wish be hers?

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