Mai Nardone at Harvard Book Store
Welcome Me to the Kingdom
in conversation with MENG JIN
February 23, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes author MAI NARDONE for a discussion of his debut story collection Welcome Me to the Kingdom. He will be joined in conversation by MENG JIN—author of Little Gods and Self-Portrait with Ghost.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
About Welcome Me to the Kingdom
We came with the drought. From the window of the train, the rich brown of the Chao Phraya River marked the turn from the northeast into the central plains. We came for Bangkok on the delta. The thin tributaries that laced the provinces found full current at the capital. And in the city, we’d heard, the wealth was wide and deep.
In 1980, young lovers Pea and Nam arrive in Bangkok in search of a life, and a world, beyond Thailand’s rural outskirts. Thirty days, they promise each other. Thirty days for Pea to find work, for him to put aside his violent and unstable past and take root in this strange new land. But Bangkok does not want for male laborers, especially teenage boys with thick provincial accents, and when time finally runs out on their promise, it’s Nam who ultimately adapts to the capital’s ruthless logic and survives.
Spanning decades and perspectives, seamlessly shifting between the absurd and the tenderhearted, the interwoven stories of Welcome Me to the Kingdom introduce three families—Nam, her American husband, Rick, and their daughter, Lara; Vitat, a Thai Elvis impersonator, and his only daughter, Pinky; and Tintin and Benz, orphans who have adopted each other as brothers—who employ various schemes to lie, betray, and seduce their way to the “good life.”
These disparate citizens of Bangkok orbit each other over the next three decades—sometimes violently, passionately colliding. Through skin-whitening routines, cult conversion, gambling, and sex work, the collection’s characters look for reinvention in a city buckling under the weight of its own modernity.
Wildly imaginative and ambitious, Mai Nardone’s stories reveal the growing discrepancy between Bangkok’s smiling self-image and its ugly underbelly, and, in the process, offer a striking portrait of a city unmade by the whims of global capitalism, in a kingdom caught between this world and the next.
Praise for Welcome Me to the Kingdom
“Welcome Me to the Kingdom transports readers to a Thailand that is gritty and lush, spangled and crumbling, aching with grit and ecstasy. Luck and want drive intertwined characters across a landscape that pulsates with life lived under unforgiving sun, and Mai Nardone is a writer with an atlas straight to the heart. I did not want to put this book down and neither will you.” —C Pam Zhang, bestselling author of How Much of These Hills Is Gold
“With cool precision, Mai Nardone steers us down the dark waterways of Bangkok and the darker waterways of human desire. Glittering, deft, and devastating, this is a tangle of stories you’ll gladly be ensnared by. I could not be more excited that Southeast Asian literature counts a writer like Nardone among its ranks.” —Violet Kupersmith, author of Build Your House Around My Body
“A kaleidoscopic vision of Thailand as deep as it is broad. Muay Thai fighters, sex workers, family kitchens, territorial volunteer medics: If no one is saved, no one is exactly lost, either. In the precisely detailed lives of his characters, Nardone unearths real truths, both painful and uplifting, and with his singular prose leaves us wanting more.”—Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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