{Guest Post + Giveaway!} The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

I recently finished reading The Frangipani Hotel which I really enjoyed! (My review is soon to follow!) 

This collection of Vietnamese ghost stories came about through Violet Kupersmith's chats with her grandmother. Based on my experience of chatting with my own grandparents, I learned so much more about my own family history, who my grandparents were as people, and it was just a lovely time to spend with them. And, come on, who can resist a good ghost story? :)

Today I welcome Violet Kupersmith sharing the beginnings of this book. She is also giving away 1 paperback to a lucky reader (US only). Welcome Violet!  

On Writing Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith

I didn’t originally intend to write about ghosts. My early stories were very grim, very un-fantastic pieces about the Vietnam War and the people that it displaced, and they just weren’t very good. The first ghost came into being because I was frustrated with a story that wasn’t coming together; out of desperation I tossed a ghost in there to try and shake up the narrative, and I liked the result. I began to play around further with the idea of spirits and the undead in my fiction, and gradually realized that the ghost was a more elegant metaphor for the ideas of immigration and identity loss that I was fascinated by. It became clear that I needed to go back to Texas and pay a visit to my source for all things Vietnamese and superstitious: my grandmother.

Getting Grandma Pham to tell her ghost stories involved a lot of strategizing. The operation was even tri-generational—I wrangled my mother into helping me translate and being my accomplice, because it was tricky to keep Grandma in one place long enough to get her talkative. We needed to catch her when she was doing a chore that was time-consuming yet did not require all her attention. Something that would occupy her hands but not her mouth, like folding laundry or chopping fruit. But once the conditions were right and we had steered the conversation down a supernatural route, Grandma was not stingy with the ghost stories. She would get so excited and tell them so quickly that I could barely keep up.

Within her tales there were noticeable categories that the ghosts tended to fall into. There were the succubi, beautiful female figures who were more like fairies or spirits than ghosts, who seduced and then destroyed men. There were animal shape-shifters. There were reanimated corpses—revenants, though not the brain-eating zombies of the Western imagination—who had not been given a proper burial and so could not find peace. Armed with Grandma’s stories, I set off for the motherland itself, spending a year and a half travelling around Vietnam and gathering more ghosts of my own. The collection that resulted is not wholly of Grandma’s time or of my own. I wanted it to be something that shimmered somewhere between the land she left in 1975 and the country I discovered almost forty years afterward, with the ghosts as the ones who bridge the gap, restless travelers endlessly crossing back and forth.

About Violet Kupersmith

Violet Kupersmith was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1989 and grew up outside of Philadelphia. Her father is American and her mother is a former boat refugee from Vietnam. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College she received a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Mekong Delta. She is currently at work on her first novel.

    Synopsis: A self-assured and stunning collection by an astonishingly gifted new writer, these stories—based on traditional Vietnamese tales—are sure to appeal to fans of Karen Russell, Jennifer Egan, Colson Whitehead, George Saunders, and Téa Obrecht. The Frangipani Hotel blends the old world and the new with fantastical, chilling, and original explorations of the ghosts that continue to haunt us: those of the Vietnam War.

     Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
    Hardcover: 256 pages
    Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (April 1, 2014)


    1. I am so very much looking forward to this book!

      can you tell us a bit about the novel you are working on?

      ~Leslie D

    2. I've been reading raves about this book.sounds perfect for me.

    3. I am captivated with this novel and would enjoy learning about the background research. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

    4. I love that she and her mother had to wrangle the stories out of her grandmother. :)

      Thanks for linking up with Spread the Love!

    5. My father is American and my mother a European native. The ghosts in her past date to the separation of her parents by the tumult of WWII. I wish I'd had the opportunity to meet my maternal grandparents and hear first-hand their stories from that era. Thank you for sharing the inspiration your grandmother struck in you!


    © guiltless readingMaira Gall