Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay

May 12, 2020

I received an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review, however it does not influence my review. Quotes are taken from an unedited advanced review copy and is subject to change in the final copy. Thanks, Jamie and Candlewick Press for the review copy!

private lessons cynthia salaysayPrivate Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay
Young Adult Contemporary, #OwnVoices, #MeToo
May 12, 2020 from Candlewick Press

In a standout debut for the #MeToo era, a young pianist devotes herself to her art — and to the demanding, charismatic teacher she idolizes.

After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father's death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups.
In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection.

Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.

What's to Like About Private Lessons 

Filipino American MC
★ Set in the Bay Area (San Francisco) 🌉
★ It is music-centered, as the MC has a passion for piano and takes lessons in hopes of earning a scholarship 🎹
★ Plenty of piano references (i.e. Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, etc) 🎼
★ Addresses heavy themes like sexual abuse, racism, grief, racial/class/cultural differences, microaggressions toward Filipino Americans, how abusers prey on vulnerability, and response to society's treatment of victims vs how they treat abusers; also navigates through heartbreak, the pursuit of perfection, the journey of healing, life lessons, what to do after high school, reclaiming your power and what it means to be a Filipino American
Growth, healing, standing up to abusers/predators and racists, and taking your power back WE ♥ LOVE TO SEE IT
★ Incredibly important and necessary especially in the #MeToo era
★ On a personal level, my being a Filipino American who was born and raised in the Bay Area and taking piano lessons as a kid just like Claire, reading Private Lessons felt a bit nostalgic for that. Unfortunately it never stuck to me like it did for Claire. But no matter what was thrown her way, she has a passion for piano and works hard for a scholarship to her dream school.


☀ Filipino American MC
☀ #ownvoices
☀ Immigrant family
☀ Depression

Content/Trigger Warnings

➤ Grief
➤ Mention of deceased parent
➤ Sexual assault
➤ Child grooming
➤ Depression
➤ Statutory rape
➤ Underage drinking
➤ Inappropriate student/teacher relationship
➤ Self-harm
➤ Gaslighting

private lessons aesthetic moodboard

"Songs don't really feel like they die. They feel like they just go back where they came from. And when I play, it's like I'm a part of that."

--Cynthia Salaysay, Private Lessons

This next one isn't a favorite quote per se, but it is so true I actually LOL'd because what a damn shame.

"Even though San Francisco is considered diverse, there are still many more white people here than at home."

--Cynthia Salaysay, Private Lessons

"You can't expect love. It's elusive. I bet half the time, when people show you love, you barely even know it. And when you show love, they don't either. It's always masked. People aren't ready for it"

--Cynthia Salaysay, Private Lessons

"I don't have time to be angry; I don't have the energy to waste. A few buildings away, in our room, is a laptop full of my dreams: an acceptance from Stanford, my application to Oberlin, an e-mail from the Bard recruiter. I've already won."

--Cynthia Salaysay, Private Lessons

**Quotes are taken from an uncorrected advanced review copy and is subject to change in the final copy**

**Playlist is compiled by author Cynthia Salaysay and can be found on her Spotify**

Cynthia Salaysay is a registered nurse, Reiki practitioner, and author. She was a food critic for the San Francisco Examiner, and has published articles in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, the East Bay Express, Modern Farmer, and Civil Eats. Private Lessons, her first novel, is due out from Candlewick Press in May 2020.

empty kingdom. Design by Berenica Designs.