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Paper Names by Susie Luo
Literary fiction

Paper Names


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Susie Luo, on your first book!

by Susie Luo

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Quick take

Singed by New York’s melting pot, an immigrant family continues to fight movingly for a piece of the American Dream.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration



An unexpected act of violence brings together a Chinese-American family and a wealthy white lawyer in this propulsive and sweeping story of family, identity and the American experience—for fans of Jean Kwok, Mary Beth Keane and Naima Coster.

Set in New York and China over three decades, Paper Names explores what it means to be American from three different perspectives. There’s Tony, a Chinese-born engineer turned Manhattan doorman, who immigrated to the United States to give his family a better life. His daughter, Tammy, who we meet at age nine and follow through adulthood, grapples with the expectations of a first generation American and her own personal desires. Finally, there’s Oliver, a handsome white lawyer with a dark family secret and who lives in the building where Tony works. A violent attack causes their lives to intertwine in ways that will change them forever.

Taut, panoramic and powerful, debut novelist Susie Luo’s Paper Names is an unforgettable story about the long shadows of our parents, the ripple effect of our decisions and the ways in which our love transcends difference.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Paper Names.
Paper Names




There were bruises on his daughter. Tony counted three. One from when she fell off her bike. Another from a game of tag on the playground. The last one was fresh. Barely noticeable, a dash of pink on her cheek. It could even be mistaken for blush.

Tony scooped Frosted Flakes by the handful, straight from box to mouth. It tasted like sugary cardboard. His daughter was seated at the table with a rigid posture. Her straight back, a silent fuck you.

“Your cereal is getting soggy,” he said.

Tammy didn’t move, eyes glued to the floor, ignoring both her father and the bowl of golden specks in front of her. At fifty inches and sixty-two pounds, she hit the exact numbers for an average nine-year-old girl, but Tony knew that she was anything but. She had a ferocious curiosity beyond her years. And a stubborn will that impressed him as much as it ignited his temper.

He said, in a singsong voice this time, “Do you want something else for breakfast?”

Again, the little girl didn’t reply, and as she tugged on her dress, two sizes too big, Tony’s entire body tensed. For a moment, he thought the mark on her cheek had darkened, but it was only a flicker of shadow. He whispered his adopted American phrase of relief: thank God. Not that he believed in God. He could only count on himself.

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Why I love it

What I love most about reading is the way a book can immerse me into an unknown experience so completely different from my own that when I finish the story, I’m totally changed, now seeing and understanding the world in a new way. Case in point is Susie Luo’s dazzlingly written debut novel, Paper Names.

Tony, a Chinese immigrant engineer, comes to the United States for a better life for his family, but cannot find work as an engineer and so much to his chagrin enlists—as a serviceperson at a luxury building. Tammy, his first-generation American daughter, bears the burden of Tony’s fierce expectations for her as she works to excel academically and professionally. Meanwhile there’s Oliver, a white wealthy attorney who lives in the building where Tony works and who refuses to believe he is anything like his corrupt parents, even as he hides a dark secret of his own.

As these lives intersect, spanning decades and continents, Luo’s propulsive novel explores critical questions about contemporary America like: What’s the cost of trying to achieve the American Dream, especially while burdened with generational trauma? This debut is so assured, so moving and stunningly written, that readers might feel it was written by a seasoned literary master—a description surely in Luo’s future. You will not want to miss this one!

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Member ratings (4,231)

  • Germeline N.

    Sparks, NV

    I felt every emotion because I’m an immigrant and Asian. It feels like I’m reading my story. I can relate to every character & scene from 1st impressions of the US to the father’s raging personality.

  • Bria A.

    Tampa, FL

    A beautiful story about 3 people who faced hardships based on their pasts. Tony’s story kept me in a chokehold. I had such high hopes for Oliver. Tammy’s life was so heavily influenced by them. Loved!

  • Katie Y.

    Bellevue, WA

    This book was very well written and touches on the struggles of immigrants and the American dream. I don’t usually like nonlinear timelines but it worked very well for this book. Didn’t like the end.

  • Allyson W.

    New York, NY

    A humbling look at the sacrifices made for the American Dream, leaving me with a newfound respect for those who’ve walked this path. Liked the POVs but couldn’t get behind the MCs distaste for her dad

  • Katie M.

    Jersey City , NJ

    This is one that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I finished. I am an absolute sucker for alternating POV’s. I loved that the characters were not 100% good or 100% bad, which made them feel real

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