We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Elise Hu a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Flawless.
TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)
EH: “I wrote Flawless because I really wanted to read something like it, and it didn’t exist yet. I remember feeling like my appearance wasn’t good enough, or could be better, in the comments I received when I lived in Seoul, and the barrage of images showing me the ideal Asian beauty all around me. While that nagged at me personally, it wasn’t until I spent more time in Korea as a journalist that I saw the ways beauty is inextricably linked with politics, the economy, society and issues of global justice. I craved work that tied together the rise of Korea’s visual and virtual tech, its pop culture exports around the globe, the growth of its cosmetics industry and what all those big, transnational forces mean for the way we are expected to show up in our physical bodies.”
TBF: What is the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? What did you love about it?
EH: “I like to tailor my book recommendations to my friends depending on their personalities and contexts. Highly specific book recommendations are a love language, imho. BUT the book I’m an evangelist for lately is Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. Ostensibly a book about time management, it’s actually a philosophical take that argues against productivity hacks and optimization. I think about it all the time.”
TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading and who gave it to you? What inspired your love of reading / writing?
EH: “I loved reading and writing before I have memories to recall what sparked it. I remember learning to read in preschool and marveling at how it opened up the whole world all of a sudden, because it meant I could understand the words on street signs and in store windows. I am, admittedly, one of those people Joan Didion mentioned in On Keeping a Notebook, who started keeping a journal when she was five, a child afflicted with a “presentiment of loss.” Anyway, there isn’t a single “first book” I recall. I remember reading Charlotte’s Web and Wayside School is Falling Down in elementary school and loving them. Ditto Roald Dahl books, and The Babysitters Club.”
Elise Hu is a correspondent and host at-large for NPR, the American news network; and since April 2020, the inaugural host of TED Talks Daily, the daily podcast from TED that’s downloaded a million times a day in all countries of the world. For nearly four years, she was the NPR bureau chief responsible for coverage of North Korea, South Korea, and Japan. Her work has earned the national DuPont Columbia, Edward R. Murrow and Gracie awards, along with a Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism. She lives in Los Angeles with her three daughters. You can see Hu at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!