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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

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.

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 (3,614)

  • 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

  • Laura K.

    McLean, VA

    So good! It hooked me from the first page, showed me so much about the immigrant experience without once lecturing, brought many threads together, and was well written. I did not love the end, though!

  • Jodie S.

    Rock Hill, SC

    A wonderful novel! The relationships were so interesting & ultimately the love shown between the father and daughter was wonderful. The writer really helps the reader see the challenges for immigrants

  • Jackie K.

    Atlanta, GA

    I really enjoyed this book. Overall it was really a good, thought-provoking book. Spoiler alert ---- I could have done without the kiss towards the end, I think that seemed kind of random to put in.

  • Amy C.

    Somerville, MA

    One of my favorites this year. The premise may be familiar (complicated family dynamics/expectations of immigrant parents) but the characters and the writing are so fresh and alive. Unputdownable.