The Reimaging of The Great Gatsby We Didn't Know We Needed: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Feb 9, 2021

Oh, who are we kidding? We knew that old classics desperately needed an upgrade. Just look at all the Most Anticipated articles out there over recent years and you'll notice several retellings on those lists.

I don't know about you but I am so excited for Nghi Vo's upcoming reimaging of The Great Gatsby, The Chosen and the Beautiful, which releases on June 1, 2021! As soon as Nghi Vo announced her upcoming retelling last year, we couldn't add it to our Goodreads TBRs fast enough. Nghi Vo's previous works are highly revered and with good reason (see why I love Nghi Vo's novellas in my story diary feature for The Empress of Salt and Fortune and When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain!). Vo's impeccable writing and way with storytelling AND the awards she's received so far speaks for themselves. If you've been waiting for a much-needed reimaging of bland classics every western student/former students had to read, don't worry Nigh Vo is here to deliver. Read on to find out why I'm excited for this book, what editors and authors are saying about it, and more retellings of classics I recommend!

For all the transracial Asian diaspora (and non-Asian) adoptees out there, we see you. Your existence is valid and not "weird," and we'll fight anyone who says otherwise. We're here for you. Don't let ignorant, problematic people get you down for existing. We're tired of certain people punching down on us POC and marginalized authors I know, but lets own our voices and our existence - they hate to see it. We will no longer take any more slander. Not today, satan Karen. Anyone who tries to bring you down or laugh at you for being adopted can go fuck themselves all the way to hell. While they're there, they should look up what trans-racial adoptee is, my fucking god Google is free. No more gatekeeping or tone-policing POC from stingy literary snobs for their dead problematic old white faves. No more of that caucasity.

Be sure to add The Chosen and the Beautiful to your TBR, pre-order a copy for yourself or your mom or a friend, request it at your local libraries, call your indie bookstores to pre-order copies, recommend to booksellers, gift it to someone, donate a copy to a little free library, suggest it to school boards for classroom reading and disrupt texts (because racist snobs hate to see us thrive in the same space as cishet white people)! Let's continue to hype up this book for readers who want to see themselves represented, loves retellings, and to support ownvoices marginalized authors. Honestly, Nghi Vo is a phenomenal storyteller and deserves the world.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Young Adult Historical Fiction Retelling, LGBTQ+
June 1, 2021 from Tor

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician. 

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society―she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her. 

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how. 

Nghi Vo’s debut novel reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

★ Praises for The Chosen and the Beautiful ★

"Nghi Vo, who has already proven that she can deliver epic fantasy in 22,000 words, clearly believes in going big or going home, because she’s breaking into the novel format by tackling one of the giants of American literature. In The Chosen and the Beautiful, she decolonizes Gatsby with beauty and verve and real magic. If you love Fitzgerald, let this book make him anew for you. If you love Fitzgerald, but have felt excluded by his narratives, here is a fantastical vision—of class, identity, and the bargains and sacrifices the marginalized have always made in America—that will come for your heart." --Ruoxi Chen, Editor

“This book is Gatsby the way it should have been written–dark, dazzling, and fantastical. Of course Jordan Baker should have been the main character. Of course everyone should have been messing with magic. Vo has created a perfect response to Fitzgerald in tone, voice, and theme.”R. F. Kuang, Author

"Luxurious, thrilling, and sexy, Nghi Vo's debut novel dives into the world of The Great Gatsby and wears it like a second skin. A shapeshifter of a book that had me hypnotized from the first pages, The Chosen and the Beautiful brings new intensity to a story you thought you knew."Adrienne Celt, Author

"Nghi Vo's stellar transformation of The Great Gatsby recasts the 'careless' Jordan Baker as a woman of depth and sharpness, a socialite forced to live in the margins of others’ lives. In Vo’s telling, the glitter of Gatsby’s parties conceals a sinister struggle—one where the players must survive on charms both literal and figurative, and the line between the invented and the real is endlessly blurred. Like Jordan’s own paper creations, The Chosen and the Beautiful captivates with its artistry and its power."Helene Wecker, author

"Decadent. Visual. Imaginative. Genius. Not enough words to praise this page-turning novel of sorcery, infernal compacts, and enchanted elixirs, in an altogether different 1920s New York. Nghi Vo snips apart, then magically weaves together a familiar story in a wholly original and decidedly unfamiliar way. Redo all the classics. And do them like this!"P. Djèlí Clark, Author

"The Chosen and the Beautiful is gorgeous and gripping, shining with language that shows us all the facets and dangers of yearning. Nghi Vo subverts and expands the possibilities of an American story, and magic is in the marrow of every sentence. I'm in awe of this book's expansive imagination and its exploration of what it means to discover desire, make your own myths, and define your belonging."K-Ming Chang, Author

Author Nghi Vo says it perfectly here:

"The Chosen and the Beautiful stars Jordan Baker, who was something of a literary enigma to me when I first read The Great Gatsby in high school. In Fitzgerald’s tale of ambition and wealth, Jordan’s clever, fascinating, a little mean, and completely indispensable to the way the story runs. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what her motivations and her dreams might be, and then last year, I got to figure it out. And then I added flying spells, deals with the devil, diaspora, trans-racial adoption, and Vietnamese paper-cutting magic and gave it a good rattle in a cocktail shaker. Well, Jordan was never good at playing by the rules, either."

Can we take a second to express gratitude to the book cover artist and designer because they deserve recognition and appreciation for the beautiful book cover that will look so beautiful on everyone's shelves come summer time (or winter for those in the southern hemisphere). Artist: Greg Ruth / Designer: Christine Foltzer

Reasons to add The Chosen and the Beautiful to your TBR

1. For this very quote from author Nghi Vo: "The Chosen and the Beautiful, a magical reimagining of The Great Gatsby told through the eyes of a queer, Asian-American Jordan Baker as the American immigrant narrative that Gatsby always should have been."

Yes! Many of us (especially ownvoices readers) have been waiting for POC adoptee stories and we cannot wait to meet Jordan Baker!

2. While it's marketed as a retelling, the summary and early reviews sounds like it's a powerful and riveting new story all its own. 

3. A skillful revitalization for a new generation of readers has the potential to surpass its predecessor. It's what the classic deserves and Fitzgerald should thank Nghi Vo for revitalizing his tired book. I said what I said, racist boomers die mad about it.

4. I'm excited to see Nghi Vo's play on the literary devices The Great Gatsby is known for (allegory, foreshadowing, hyperbole, symbolism, etc.), or to see how she utilizes them in a different way. Or perhaps add other literary devices not used in TGG. Who knows what Vo has up her sleeves?

5. It's unapologetically queer and we love to see it. Fitzgerald might be rolling in his grave, but Jordan is unbothered and not here for your racism or homophobia.

6. It's said that the prose is stunning, lyrical, atmospheric, fresh and has a "glass-sharp beauty," which is not surprising coming from Nghi Vo.

7. Mysterious magic in the Roaring 20s? Fitzgerald could never.

8. Word on the street is that this gives the original Gatsby a run for his money, and we're not even mad. We can agree that it already sounds better than the original, and we cannot wait for everyone to read it.

9. Unexpected plot twists that we are so here for, despite probably not being prepared for any of them. You know Nghi Vo's power to pull at our heartstrings in various ways is unparalleled.

10. Read the praises from authors (see above) who've already read it. Unlike certain *ahem* people, they have taste. It sounds really fucking good.

Highly Recommended Retellings


Roman and Jewel by Dana L. Davis
Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Anna K. by Jenny Lee
Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Thorn by Intisar Khanani
A Taste For Love by Jennifer Yen
A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney
Circe by Madeline Miller
Prep & Prejudice by Miren B. Flores
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha
Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
In the Vanisher's Palace by Aliette de Bodard
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
Ruinsong by Julie Ember
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco
The Stars We Steal by Alexa Donne
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

Stay tuned for an upcoming The Great Gatsby queer Latinx reimagining by Anna-Marie McLemore, coming Fall 2022! Author RoAnna Sylver is also writing their own retelling as well, and we are here for all of it!

More listicles of retellings for your reading pleasure and overflowing TBRs can be found on Epic Reads, Book Riot, and Goodreads.

Nghi Vo was born in central Illinois, and she retains a healthy respect of and love for corn mazes, scarecrows, and fifty-year floods. These days, she lives on the shores of Lake Michigan, which is less a lake than an inland sea that she is sure is just biding its time. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Uncanny Magazine, PodCastle, Lightspeed, and Fireside. Her short story, “Neither Witch nor Fairy” made the 2014 Otherwise (formerly Tiptree) Award Honor List. Nghi mostly writes about food, death, and family, but sometimes detours into blood, love, and rhetoric. She believes in the ritual of lipstick, the power of stories, and the right to change your mind.

Find Nghi Vo's works here.

♥ Are you excited for The Chosen and the Beautiful? 
Or any of the upcoming TGG retellings that's coming soon?
What are your favorite retellings?
What are your favorite books with adoptee protagonists? ♥

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