How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

Alexander Chee (Author) Daniel K Isaac (Read by)


An essay collection exploring his education as a man, writer, and activist-and how we form our identities in life and in art.

As a novelist, Alexander Chee has been described as masterful by Roxane Gay, incendiary by the New York Times, and brilliant by the Washington Post. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first collection of nonfiction, he is sure to secure his place as one of the finest essayists of his generation as well.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author's manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation's history, including his father's death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing-Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley-the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.

By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.

Product Details

Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date
December 04, 2018
5.3 X 0.6 X 6.8 inches | 0.2 pounds
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Alexander Chee is the author of the novels The Queen of the Night and Edinburgh and the acclaimed essay collection How to Write An Autobiographical Novel. He is a contributing editor at the New Republic, an editor-at-large at Virginia Quarterly Review, and a critic-at-large at the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in The Best American Essays 2016, the New York Times Magazine, Slate, Guernica, and Tin House, among others. He is an associate professor of English at Dartmouth College.

Daniel K. Isaac was born on December 5, 1988 in Fullerton, California. He is an actor and writer, known for Billions, Money Monster, and Too Big to Fail.


A knowing and luminous self-portrait.

-- "O, The Oprah Magazine"

Meditates on how art shapes who we are, unpacking its author's own coming-of-age as a gay Korean man to craft persuasive, engrossing arguments.

-- "Entertainment Weekly"

Chee has written a moving and personal tribute to impermanence, a wise and transgressive meditation on a life lived both because of and in spite of America, a place where, he writes, you are allowed to speak the truth as long as nothing changes.

-- "New York Times Book Review"

Chee's insights about writing, love, and activism are hard won, honest, and incredibly wise.

-- "Guardian (London)"

He beckons readers to experience his private moments with such clarity and honesty that we're immediately brought into his consciousness. At the same time, he asks us to contemplate the largest questions about identity, sexuality, family, art and war.

-- "Washington Post"

Chee remains introspective and self-reflective without arrogance...Chee is able to write about himself and, by extension, about all of us.

-- "Esquire"

Every essay, no matter the subject, exhibits warmth, rigor, tact...The mask conceals and it reveals; writing transfigures and it uncovers. That's the gift that writing has given Chee, and it's the gift that his wonderful new collection gives its readers.

-- " Boston Globe"

An absolute gift of a book for writers everywhere. Every single essay is a pearl.

-- "Chicago Review of Books"

His essays are an invitation not to review the rules of writing but to trace a unique pathway into knowledge and being in and through writing.

-- "Los Angeles Review of Books"

Chee's writing has a mesmerizing quality; his sentences are rife with profound truths without lapsing into the didactic.

-- "NPR"

Chee's marvel of a collection opens with the sting of clarity...The sixteen essays that knit together his profound and resonant collection are a nimble study in radical self-invention...The revelations that follow crackle with the same glowing, essential truths.

-- "Wired"

Alexander Chee is one of our most important writers and we should listen to every damn thing he has to say.

-- "Jami Attenberg, author of All Grown Up"

Alexander Chee explores the realm of the real with extraordinarily beautiful essays. Being real here is an ambition, a haunting, an impossibility, and an illusion. What passes for real, his essays suggest, becomes real, just as life becomes art, and art, pursued this fully, becomes a life.

-- "Eula Biss, author of On Immunity"

A searing examination of the costs of writing.

-- "Vox"