Upstream Author: Vanessa Hua

Introducing Booksmith's newest Upstream author: Vanessa Hua!

Upstream, for the uninitiated, is our ongoing (and ever-growing) effort to partner with local authors to provide an unending supply of signed books available for purchase—without events, lines, or hassle. Order and enjoy.


On the eve of China’s Cultural Revolution and her sixteenth birthday, Mei dreams of becoming a model revolutionary. When the Communist Party recruits girls for a mysterious duty in the capital, she seizes the opportunity to escape her impoverished village. It is only when Mei arrives at the Chairman’s opulent residence—a forbidden city unto itself—that she learns that the girls’ job is to dance with the Party elites. Ambitious and whip-smart, Mei beelines toward the Chairman. 

Mei gradually separates herself from the other recruits to become the Chairman’s confidante—and paramour. While he fends off political rivals, Mei faces down schemers from the dance troupe who will stop at nothing to take her place and the Chairman’s imperious wife, who has secret plans of her own. 

When the Chairman finally gives Mei a political mission, she seizes it with fervor, but the brutality of this latest stage of the revolution makes her begin to doubt all the certainties she has held so dear. 

Forbidden City is an epic yet intimate portrayal of one of the world’s most powerful and least understood leaders during this extraordinarily turbulent period in modern Chinese history. Mei’s harrowing journey toward truth and disillusionment raises questions about power, manipulation, and belief, as seen through the eyes of a passionate teenage girl.

Vanessa Hua is an award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of the national bestseller A River of Stars, as well as Deceit and Other Possibilities, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the forthcoming Forbidden City. A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, she has also received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. She has filed stories from China, Burma, South Korea, Panama, and Ecuador, and her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has taught, most recently, at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family. Author photo by Andria Lo.


You can now order signed copies of any of Vanessa's books, including the forthcoming Forbidden City: A Novel! Order below, and put any personalization request in the comment field. 

Forbidden City: A Novel By Vanessa Hua Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780399178818
Availability: Hard to Find (or) Out of Stock Indefinitely
Published: Ballantine Books - May 10th, 2022

Deceit and Other Possibilities: Stories By Vanessa Hua Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781640093485
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Counterpoint - March 10th, 2020

A River of Stars: A Novel By Vanessa Hua Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780399178795
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ballantine Books - August 6th, 2019