#399: A Book Launch

Two red lion mask heads and barrel drum awaiting performance in front of bookshelves.
Corktown, Detroit, MI (Photo by Julia)

Saturday I had the launch party for my new book, The Many Masks of Andy Zhou. On the drive back, Julia asked me what was different between this party and the one I had in 2017. My answer? Community.

See You in the Cosmos came out a year and a half after I’d moved back to Detroit. I was only just starting to (re)learn the city and make friends. A couple of them showed up to that party, along with my brother and some people he knew, and a few high school friends and bookstore regulars. I talked about the novel, read a couple of excerpts; we had wine and cupcakes as I signed books and mingled. Short and sweet. Overall, it was a great night.

This time, the room was filled with people from different communities I’ve become a part of in the time since. Drew and Erin Pineda, friends and co-owners of 27th Letter Books welcomed us into their shop (which they opened during pandemic—no small feat!). The Michigan Lion Dance team, a student-volunteer group I connected with while researching the novel, kicked things off with a full-fledged performance. Then some Detroit-area author buds read from their own books for kids and teens (poets do this all the time for book releases, why don’t we novelists?). Neighbors and friends were there, including my barber, who helped rebleach my hair ahead of the event (and who I’ve casually played Magic: The Gathering with). Folks I’d met at SCBWI events came too (here’s an interview about Many Masks on the Michigan chapter’s blog), as did my mom and brother Charlie, with boba tea from Charlie’s friend’s shop and fried dumplings from a local Shanghainese takeout joint. The whole time, Julia acted as my photographer and made sure I didn’t lose my marked-up reading copy. I worried that if I looked at her for too long during my part of the reading, I would tear up.

You know what’s a great feeling? When you read an anime or specific Detroit-area reference from your book and your friends laugh and nod in recognition. That’s a great feeling.

So: Community. It wasn’t just Saturday’s event that made this the word. Earlier in the week I went around to some local bookstores to sign stock and chat, including Pages (where I had my Cosmos launch), Book Beat (where I ran into to a librarian friend and talked on the phone with another, both secretly arranged by Colleen) and Source (where I watched Janet literally run out the front entrance to coax a passing group of high school students into the store).

Signing at Book Beat

Of all the recognition that Cosmos earned, one of the things I’m most proud of is making the Kids’ Indie Next List, an every-couple-of-months set of titles nominated by booksellers across the country. Nominated directly by real human beings (really—there’s a form!), like Janet and Colleen, who live in those communities and read and sell lots of books and who will introduce you to librarians who ask you to visit their schools to speak to students.

That’s why it was incredibly special to also learn this week that Many Masks will be on the upcoming July/August Kids’ Indie Next List. (It’s not live on the site yet, but I’m told that I’m allowed to talk about it.) Here’s actual footage of my reaction:

All that’s to say: it’s been a heck of a week. And I’m feeling grateful.