Early in Vanessa Hua's moving debut, she describes how "long ago, two lovers--a humble cow herder and a weaver girl, a fairy in disguise--were torn apart when the Goddess of Heaven, the fairy's mother, scratched her hairpin onto the night sky, welling up a river of stars to separate them." In the following pages, two pregnant Chinese women arrive in the United States and go on the run after being betrayed and exiled by their lovers.
Scarlett Chen is a 30-something woman sent by Boss Yeung, her well-heeled and married lover, to give birth to their son at Perfume Bay--a posh "birthing hotel" in a Los Angeles suburb--and therefore gain automatic U.S. citizenship for the child. Boss Yeung intends to pay her off and raise the child with his wife, but Scarlett discovers via an ultrasound examination that she will have a daughter. Fearing anger and reprisal, she escapes in a stolen van with teenaged stowaway Daisy, a fellow Perfume Bay resident. They drive north to San Francisco's Chinatown, where they give birth, survive in poverty and evade detectives paid to find Scarlett.
Hua, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, has written extensively about the Asian diaspora. She approaches her story with journalistic purpose and warm humor. Her heroines in A River of Stars are strong, resourceful and eager to embrace the values of their adopted countries to overcome desperate circumstances. In highlighting the struggles immigrants face in their home countries, Hua gives a very real face to a population often marginalized by political theorizing and racial clichés. In fact, they are not outsiders, but the very embodiment of the American dream. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant