A searing, joyful YA debut about a queer Cambodian American teen’s journey to find her voice and step into her legacy, perfect for fans of Ibi Zoboi and Elizabeth Acevedo.
Soma Kear’s verses have gone viral. Trouble is, she didn’t exactly think her slam poetry video through. All she knew was that her rhymes were urgent. On fire. An expression of where she was, and that place…was a hot mess.
Following her Ba’s deportation back to Cambodia, everything’s changed. Her Ma is away trying to help Ba adjust to his new life, and her older sister has taken charge with a new authoritarian tone. Meanwhile, Soma’s trending video pushes her to ask if it’s time to level up. With her school’s spoken word contest looming, Soma must decide: Is she brave enough to put herself out there? To publicly reveal her fears of Ba not returning? To admit that things may never be the same?
With every line she spits, Soma searches for a way to make sense of the world around her. The answers are at the mic.
From debut author Vichet Chum comes a celebration of Khmer identity, queerness, and embracing the complicated histories that shape who we are and want to be.
Vichet Chum (he/him) is a Cambodian American writer originally from Carrollton, Texas. He graduated from the University of Evansville and received an MFA from Brown University. He currently lives in New York City. Kween is his debut novel, and you can visit Vichet at vichetchum.com.
“Some readers will see themselves reflected in Soma, some readers will learn about the history and culture of girls like Soma, and all readers will be rooting for Soma to realize her voice has power and that history is both a weight and a launchpad. Vichet Chum is a beautiful wordsmith and a fresh, welcome new voice in the YA canon.” — Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Kween is a must-read novel about a young Cambodian American navigating identity, family, and love in the shadows of war and dislocation. Told in a fierce and vulnerable voice, Vichet Chum delivers a fresh perspective in contemporary literature." — Loung Ung, bestselling author of First They Killed My Father
"In this smart and edgy debut, Chum, per an author’s note, gives Soma space to be “clumsy, complex, and, yes, contradictory at times,” channeling a protagonist whose uncertainty in the face of her future and the model minority myth feels fresh and radical. Via Soma’s sharp, first-person voice, Chum mixes humorous insights with forthright interrogations of colonialism, immigration, and racism." — Publishers Weekly
"Reading this close first-person narrative is like being happily nestled inside Soma's brilliant and introspective little head. Chum's writing itself is mesmerizing from the jump with its wit and flow, a stunning prelude to Soma's killer verses. Informative in its depiction of Cambodian foods and customs (both inherited and often hilariously invented) and with smooth dialogue, and a friendship for the ages, Chum's debut is absolutely magnetic." — Booklist (starred review)
"Chum offers readers an education in Cambodian history, the Khmer people, and their Lowell community throughout this heartfelt family drama. His cultural respect and humor amplify the book’s strong sense of place. An empowering coming-of-age story with genuine character growth." — Kirkus Reviews