Announcing: Not Contagious—Only Cancer, a novel by Miriam Ching Yoon Louie and illustrated by Nguyen Louie
Publisher: Rabbit Roar
Publication date: April 2016
PRICE: $14.95 | 360 pages
A Nursing Aide Harvests Lessons Caring for Seniors to Fight for Her Life
Kyong Ah Choi eases patients from the jaws of disaster, coaxing cranky limbs and organs into working order. One night she coughs up a blood clot resembling a chunk of Dead Husband’s liver. She smothers panic with cigarettes and memory of a patient who staged his own Kevorkian.
Yet her blood will not be silenced. Soon she shuttles between days rescuing patients and nights at the county hospital, where Oakland’s shot, maimed, and uninsured lean away from her TB-like hacking. Loath to ask for help, she dodges her kids Yumi the hater, Mickey the boozer, and Sally the lesbian sex toy store clerk. But when a North-Korean-missile-sized biopsy needle disgorges its payload, Kyong Ah must up her game to outwit a killer that copycats the ingenuity of its immigrant host.
April 13, 2017
“CHECKING VITAL SIGNS:
Care, Work, Time & Family
—Challenges & Solutions”
Association for Asian American Studies
2017 Conference, Marriott Downtown Hotel
Portland, Oregon with
Karah Newton, National Mobilization
Against Sweatshops (NMASS)
& Ain’t I A Woman Campaign;
Kai Wen Yang, Students Organizing
against Reynolds (SOAR);
Grace Chang, Associate Professor
Feminist Studies UC Santa Barbara
& Miriam Ching Yoon Louie,
Co-publisher, Rabbit Roar
Come hear Miriam Louie and Laurin Mayeno
read from their new books and talk about
how writing expressed their identities as
Asian American women. Miriam is author
of Not Contagious—Only Cancer
illustrated by Nguyen Louie, (Rabbit Roar).
Laurin is author of One of a Kind, Like Me/
Único Como Yo, a bilingual children’s book
about Danny, who wants to be a princess
in the school parade; it is illustrated by
Robert Liu-Trujillo (Blood Orange Press).
They explore ways to tell your own
story and learn about book making.
Sept. 17, 2-4 pm, Rabbit Roar & Friends
The San Francisco Women’s Building
3543 18th St., SF 94110
Come hear Miriam & Nguyen read &
talkabout mother daughter adventures
in indie publishing with special guest
& children’s book author Laurin Mayeno.
Hosted by Diane Jones, Roma Guy,
Giuliana Milanese & Linda Burnham.
Watch Miriam read at her Oakland launch!
August 18, 2016
Apex Express Radio Interview
Making Contact Producer Marie Choi
raps with Miriam about who is there
when we die and about low waged workers,
llin’ families, ghosts and protectors
June 27, 2016, Through the Eyes of Women
KHSU Radio Interview
Host Emma Breacain speaks with her aunt,
author and activist Miriam Ching Yoon Louie,
about her first book of fiction
June 17, Friday, 8 pm, Double Launch
Myns Warehouse, 2300 A Market Street Oakland
Jai Arun Ravine, The Romance of Siam
(Timeless, Infinite Light)
+Miriam’s Not Contagious—Only Cancer
Performances by Arisa White
& ieumsae, Korean poongmul drummers for justice
June 4 & 5, Bay Area Book Festival
Inspirational Ave./ Harold Way
between Allston & Kittredge, Berkeley
Come visit the booth of authors
Valerie Haynes Perry
& Miriam Ching Yoon Louie
for fresh, signed books
“In Not Contagious—Only Cancer, Kyong Ah Choi can read body fluids with the skill of a trained coroner. A nurse’s aide in a Skilled Nursing Facility, Kyong Ah tends to every need of her dying patients: decoding their grunts, changing their soiled diapers, and negotiating for their favorite foods. Overworked, underpaid, and without benefits, she is a champion of life, mixing cigarettes, Korean food, and folk medicine to care for others and for herself. In this lively, bittersweet, and comic novel, writer Miriam Ching Yoon Louie plunges us into the breathless momentum of Kyong Ah’s world as she negotiates uneven relationships with her three children, wards off the ghost of her cheating ex-husband, and schemes to manage her illness compromised by systems and insufficient medical care. The dialogue pops with utterances, beneath the breath rumbles, and secret messages to the dead. Not Contagious—Only Cancer drives relentlessly from beginning to end, bringing a satisfying mash-up of pain, love, concern, amusement and compassion. Each of the small chapters drops a seed of wisdom and insight that coalesces into an instructional guide on self-care that allows hope for life and honor for death.”
—Elmaz Abinader, author of This House, My Bones
“Kyong Ah Choi’s cancer may not be contagious, but the energy and passion in this book telling her story certainly is. Miriam Ching Yoon Louie’s debut novel has it all: vivid, complex characters; snappy dialogue; a full emotional range; laugh-out-loud humor, and even suspense. Breaking the mold with a main character who is simultaneously a nurse’s aide, a philosopher, a worried mother and a dreamer of dreams, Not Contagious takes you on a roller coaster ride from hospital rooms to tattoo parlors and from sex shops to Medicare waiting lines. It’s a roaring tale of life lived to the full at breakneck speed. At the same time it’s a stop-and-reflect exploration of tradition, generational change, the relationship between self-sacrifice and self-preservation, and what human beings go through when face-to-face with the prospect of death. This novel is as satisfying as the Korean comfort food that keeps Kyong Ah going to the very last page.”
—Max Elbaum, Editor, Books (and more) by Friends
I first met Miriam through her book SweatshopWarriors when I was a Women Studies student because we were on the same path–women of color activism, Korean shamanism studies and a passion for justice for “comfort women.” Don’t miss her novel Not Contagious –Only Cancer, an amazing and rare book on life in the diaspora. The protagonist, Kyong Ah, reflects tens of thousands of Asian women. Underprivileged, often in their homelands as well, they end up doing the dirtiest work in foreign countries. Kyong Ah turns this work into a sacred mission by giving deep, loving care to elders. She is not a one dimensional, Asian model minority nor are her children. She is an old, single, health care worker weakened by cancer. Her kids are caught between cultures: a career oriented daughter, a bumming around addict son, and a sexshop worker lesbian daughter. Tattoos and gender identity quests are included. The story evokes the ethos and pathos of diverse cultures within Asian communities and how the reality and politics of care work can destroy people like Kyong Ah. Vivid descriptions of food, hospitals and the process of dying provoke longing and sadness. Yet the story is funny and will make you laugh through your tears.
—Inhui Lee, author of Crossing Over Ten Thousand Sorrows: A Korean Shamanic Ritual for “Comfort Women,” forthcoming
“I love the book! It’s funny, tender and frustrating! I know these people so, so good! I couldn’t put it down. I talked so much about the story that I’m lending it out to all the folks that have expressed an interest. Congratulations on a really cool book.”
—Zelma Toro, retired office worker “& loving it”
About the Author
Miriam Ching Yoon Louie is a third generation Korean Chinese American writer whose fiction and poetry tickles the bellies of characters until they giggle—or bite. Her non-fiction works, Sweatshop Warriors and Women’s Education in the Global Economy, feature the voices of immigrant and women of color leaders and movements. Louie was a founding member of the Women of Color Resource Center and served as media coordinator for the women worker organizations Asian Immigrant Women Advocates and Fuerza Unida. She trained in fiction and poetry with Voices of Our Nations Arts. While tending her ailing family members, Louie met nursing angels who coaxed miracles from their elderly patients. This is her first novel.
Illustrations: Nguyen Louie is a third and fourth generation Chinese Korean American political cartoonist and children’s book illustrator. Born and raised in Oakland, she now lives in San Francisco with her family. She spent most of her life coping with dyslexia and overcoming the stigma of being labeled dumb or slow. Her brain is hardwired differently. She loves hearing multifaceted narratives and telling stories with pictures. Check out her latest musings here.
Book Design: Jai Arun Ravine is a writer, dancer and graphic designer. jaiarunravine.com