How to Write an Autobiographical Novel-9781328764522

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

by Alexander Chee

From the author of The Queen of the Night, an essay collection exploring how we form our identities in life, in politics, and in art 


  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9781328764522
  • ISBN-10: 1328764524
  • Pages: 288
  • Publication Date: 04/17/2018
  • Carton Quantity: 24

About the book

From the author of The Queen of the Night, 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, “incomparable” by Junot Díaz, and “incendiary” by the New York Times. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, his first collection of nonfiction, he’s 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.

About the author
Alexander Chee

ALEXANDER CHEE is the best-selling author of the novels The Queen of the Night and Edinburgh. 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.  


Praise for How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: 

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2018 by Esquire, Book Riot, PopSugar, The Rumpus, My Republica, Paste, Bustle, Christian Science Monitor, and Buzzfeed 

Named a Most Anticipated Nonfiction Title of 2018 by Bitch 

Named a Top 10 Essay Collection of Spring 2018 by Publishers Weekly 

Named a Most Anticipated April Book by EW, Book Riot, Bitch, and The Coil 


"Alexander Chee is one of the best living writers of today. If he’s not already a household name, he needs to be…powerful, powerful essays with powerful, powerful words…" 

—Buzzfeed's Isaac Fitzgerald, on NBC's TODAY 


"Two-thirds of the way through Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, I abandoned my sharpened reviewer's pencil in favor of luxuriating in the words. Chee's writing has a mesmerizing quality; his sentences are rife with profound truths without lapsing into the didactic...Chee is a very special artist; his writing is lyrical and accessible, whimsical and sad, often all at the same time. No doubt he is an inspiring writing teacher as well. His views on writing reflect his own, thoughtfully examined life." 



"The latest brilliant fiction writer to publish a new essay collection this year...Alexander Chee proves why he’s a master of the form. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel 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 


"A knowing and luminous self-portrait." 

O, the Oprah Magazine 


"Alexander Chee has been a beloved writing teacher and generous supporter of fellow authors for quite a while. His first collection of nonfiction is a lovely reminder that there is indeed an art to the personal essay, and he is a master artist." 

Maris Kreizman, Esquire 


“Alexander Chee published Edinburgh, a singularly beautiful and psychologically harrowing first book that still stands as one of the best American novels of this century. Now, he’s published How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, a first book of essays that is just as good, and almost as singular, as his novelistic debut…How good is How to Write an Autobiographical Novel? It’s so good that I could fill my word count just with quotations…one of its beauties is how simultaneously shaped and flexible it is, both thematically coherent and varied in subject matter…Chee’s particular style of mind and habits of moral engagement hold the collection together; 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.” 

The Boston Globe 


"As profound as they are beautiful, Chee's essays impart wisdom from a life fully lived, and speak to what it means to be a writer and reader in contemporary times." 



"If you’re the kind of writer who will never get an MFA but wants to know more about how writers are trained and how they think, there’s so much to consider and it’s provided in the kind of prose that will thrill you and make you deeply jealous." 

Book Riot 


"In his first collection of nonfiction essays, novelist Alexander Chee immortalizes himself through his art and literature...Enlightening, revealing the true impact of the arts." 



"Engrossing, smart, insightful, intimate, moving, responsibly adventurous, somewhat meditative, even occasionally luscious." 

The Stranger 


"The central essay “The Autobiography of My Novel” is almost a pure lesson in craft, and a deliciously generous one...offer[s] the reader the unique gift of being both affirming of the writing life, no matter how winding or torturous or incomprehensible it might be, and affirming of the simple fact that we are alive in the world at all." 

Literary Hub  


"Bears all the hallmarks of the writer's intelligence, curiosity and precision with language...entertaining and illuminating...Alexander Chee demonstrates how to transform life into art in this sharp and thoughtful collection of essays." 

Shelf Awareness 


"Poetic and utterly moving, this stunning book attempts to get at the heart of how we not only create but defend out identities, to ourselves and to the world". 



"Compelling...Gorgeous, dense, provocative...Chee delivers 16 essays of varying weights and lengths, mostly in the first person and largely in chronological order. The effect is both profound and incremental, of stories that stand alone and work together to unveil a life...Chee’s variegated memoir alternates between coming-of-age stories and self-scrutiny, a writer’s lessons and appraisal of his own work, each mapping parts of a larger identity. The book is operatic in its range, reflecting the author’s life as an outsider not only to the culture, but at times, to his family and himself. The resulting narrative makes for some powerful, lyrical prose." 

Portland Press Herald 


"Readers will delight in this memoir-in-essays...In these pieces, he evolves from a plucky 15-year-old beguiling the locals of Mexico into believing he’s one of them after his swift acquisition of Spanish, to one of America’s premiere literary voices fighting against politics that threaten his deepest convictions...This manifesto’s universal truths will speak to readers from all walks of life." 

Brooklyn Eagle 


"Alexander Chee is a writer whose work you should know, and you’re lucky because his new book is the perfect introduction...Simply gorgeous...There are few writers whose collections of nonfiction can induce the kind of collective awe and excitement that Chee seems to cause...Chee isn’t just brilliant, he’s an original...To a generation of queer writers, Chee is a beacon, measuring stick, and fairy godmother. It would be simplistic to say that Chee’s work provided me with a working model of how one could go about life as a queer artist of color, but it would also be the truth, or part of the truth...In his excellent first essay collection seems to have all the answers I’ve been craving." 

Brandon Taylor, them. 


"Alex 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 Notes from No Man’s Land and On Immun...