* 2023 Kingstone Bookstore Rising Star Award
* 2021 Taipei Literature Award
A young actress can’t seem to break free from supporting roles, both in her family and in her work. As she comes to terms with the sexual politics of the industry, and the relationship patterns imposed by her childhood, she gradually finds the strength to write the script of her own life.
Growing up in a household with an absentee father and an emotionally unavailable mother, Claire Huang was primarily raised by her elder sister Stella. With a twelve-year age gap separating them, Stella served as Claire’s primary role model, but she also cast a large shadow. As an adult, Claire’s resemblance to a Japanese movie star leads her into a career in acting. Starting as an unseen stand-in, she applies to talent competitions, and attends various screen tests, finally signing a contract with an agent after receiving the recommendation of a middle-aged movie director, Mr. W.
As she pursues her dreams in the performing arts, Claire watches as her sister becomes mired in an extra-marital affair, leading to a falling out with their mother. The realities of sexual politics become all the more apparent when the power dynamics of her relationship with Mr. W begin impacting her career options. Still stuck in the rut of playing supporting roles, and aware that time is slipping away, Claire moves to London for further training. When yet another big opportunity suddenly evaporates, Claire is forced to question whether she should continue to pursue her passion for acting. Or is there some way to thread the needle between her relationships and her dreams, and begin living the life she truly wants?
With sensitive and refined prose, and an eye for the rich visual detail of life in the performing arts, Joanne Deng recounts the story of an actress contending with the issues of class, gender, and family, as she charts her own course in life. From her days as a stand-in, to fresh-faced newcomer, to supporting, and finally, leading actress, to motherhood – through all of her loves and follies – Claire remains steadfast in her search for her authentic self, bringing sincerity, tears, and laughter to this tale of modern womanhood.