Published October 19th, 2016
Orinda Native Pens a Delightful Book of Short Stories on 'Deceit and Other Possibilities'
By Sophie Braccini
Vanessa Hua poses with her book of short stories at Orinda Books. Photo Sophie Braccini
There is something very exciting about a well-written book of short stories. Within a few lines it immerses the reader in an intense atmosphere, takes them away on a journey that leaves them breathless and thrilled on arrival, still surprised to have been taken so far, so fast. Then again, the next story is right there for the next thrill.

For her first book at that game of surprise and rapid immersion, Vanessa Hua shows punchy skills from the get go. "Deceit And Other Possibilities" show struggling liars, hopeful dreamers and other all too-real characters of contemporary America. A very fun and pleasant read, it is impregnated with Hua's Asian ancestry.

They are Asian-American fresh-from-the-boat or here for several generations, more or less mixed-blood-mixed-up. Their stories are touching, funny, scary and ring true. Hua's construction is often intricate. She delights in moving the reader back and forth along the space and time continuum, and she enjoys not giving all the secrets at once, lightly cueing the reader. Her style is raw and lively, contemporary and energetic.

Hua started writing the 10 stories of this first book in 2000. She's always been a writer; while at Miramonte High School she won the Poul Anderson creative writing contest. She says today that the early encouragements she received were key to her development as a writer. She grew up in Orinda the daughter of two Chinese parents who came to the States in the 1960s as graduate students. She says about growing up in the '80s and '90s here that she was made to feel different. Her first published book naturally explores issues of immigration and identity.

Hua started her career as a journalist, working for the Los Angeles Times after college, then as a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, where she still has a column as she raises her family in Orinda. But the need to write fiction lingered over reporting and she started taking workshops, going to writing conferences, belonging to fiction writing groups, and in the evening or during weekends she would spin her prose. "I see the world in stories," she says.

Hua paints situations where her characters are facing extreme challenges, often of their own making. The fact that there is something "foreign" about them is at the crux of the dynamic that puts them where they are. Pulled by conflicting traditions, pressured by high expectations, they do their best to fit in and please everyone, while struggling also to be themselves. Hua writes about what she calls hyphenated-Americans, trying to balance their life on the tiny thread of the hyphen.

You never completely know how inspired by true stories her tales are, it is just another possibility. Hua takes her characters and their surrounding under a microscope. Every detail is laid out, vividly. She does not judge, she just dissects with compassion, giving these people, in spite of their inadequacies, their humanity.

Hua will be at Orinda Books from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 to talk about her stories. Her book is available there and online. She is in the final stage of releasing two novels, one of them a historic fiction set in Mao's Cultural Revolution China. Orinda books is located at 276 Village Square in Orinda.

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Copyright Lamorinda Weekly, Moraga CA