cover image The Sense of Wonder

The Sense of Wonder

Matthew Salesses. Little, Brown, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-42571-1

Novelist and critic Salesses (Craft in the Real World) offers a brilliant and scathing chronicle of two Asian Americans as they try to find their place in contemporary sports and media. As the first Asian American in the NBA, Korean American Won Lee is poised to become a star after he steps in for his injured Knicks teammate Paul Burton (nicknamed “Powerball!”), his winning streak earning him the nickname “the Wonder.” But he’s also confronted by casual and at times cutting racism from teammates, coaches, and fans, as well as professional jealousy from an ESPN reporter, Robert Sung, who played high school ball with Powerball! and used to imagine himself in Won’s shoes. Meanwhile, Won’s girlfriend, Carrie, is fighting an uphill battle in her efforts to bring Korean television dramas to an American market. Using language that is hilarious, caustic, and poignant, Salesses effectively interrogates whether and how Asians can contribute to American celebrity culture without meeting the same old racism in return. Robert’s profile of Won, for instance, ends up with a reference to China in the headline, and when Carrie risks pitching a K-drama with American characters, an executive asks if she can “hear how that sounds like you don’t know what you’re doing.” Incorporating both Won and Carrie’s perspectives while also weaving in plots and scripts from K-dramas, Salesses fills the page with all the bold, kinetic confidence of an athlete striding onto the court. Agent: Ayesha Pande, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Jan.)