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    Exclusive: See the cover for Rachel Khong’s new novel, Real Americans.

    Nicole Kugel

    July 31, 2023, 10:00am

    Literary Hub is pleased to reveal the cover for Rachel Khong’s Real Americans, “an exhilarating novel of American identity that spans three generations in one family,” which will be published by Knopf on April 30, 2024. Here’s a bit more about the book from the publisher:

    Real Americans begins on the precipice of Y2K in New York City, when twenty-two-year-old Lily Chen, an unpaid intern at a slick media company, meets Matthew. Matthew is everything Lily is not: easygoing and effortlessly attractive, a native East Coaster and, most notably, heir to a vast pharmaceutical empire. Lily couldn’t be more different: flat-broke, raised in Tampa, the only child of scientists who fled Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Despite all this, Lily and Matthew fall in love.

    In 2021, fifteen-year-old Nick Chen has never felt like he belonged on the isolated Washington island where he lives with his single mother, Lily. He can’t shake the sense she’s hiding something. When Nick sets out to find his biological father, the journey threatens to raise more questions than answers.

    Exuberant and explosive, Real Americans is a social novel par excellence that asks: Are we destined, or made, and if so, who gets to do the making? Can our genetic past be overcome?

    And here’s the cover, which was designed by Linda Huang:

    “Rachel’s writing is vivid, propulsive, and almost has the pace of a thriller—I often felt like I was watching a movie veering on the edge of sci-fi (in the best way possible),” Huang told Lit Hub.

    My initial designs attempted to combine the double helix and the lotus, two central motifs, into a clever illustration, but they felt a bit staid and limiting. Finally, after countless sketches, I landed upon the helix as an overarching structure containing ‘windows’ revealing the different worlds in the novel—from Mao-era China to NYC to San Francisco’s Chinatown. It feels sweeping and immersive while retaining some internal logic that makes sense once you’ve read the book. And I still got to feature a beautiful painting of a lotus!

    “‘Immediately this feels right,’ I texted my group chat upon seeing this cover,” Khong added.

    I’ve long admired Linda Huang’s work—she’s responsible for the covers of Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown and Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch, to name just a couple—so when I learned she’d be designing the cover of Real Americans, I was certain my book was in extremely capable hands. Even still, I was not prepared for what Linda came up witha work of art that is beyond what I could have hoped for, or could even have dreamed of. Linda’s design — with its perfectly selected details — does so much at once: the “portals” evoke the book’s scope, its different worlds; the double helix as design element suggests the movement of time — the way past, present, and future merge and flow into one another. Somehow, the cover strikes a rare balance: elegant yet playful, serious without being severe. It’s also a cover that rewards the reader without giving anything away. I don’t know how she did it, but I’m so impressed, and so very grateful.

    Real Americans will be published by Knopf on April 30, 2024. You can preorder it here.

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