Internationally acclaimed poet Lang Leav’s debut adult novel combines her poetical lyricism and emotional acumen to create an enthralling coming of age narrative set against the backdrop of anti-Asian sentiment sweeping Australia in the late 90’s. A stirring portrayal of guilt, loss, and memory, OTHERS WERE EMERALDS explores the inherent danger of allowing our misconceptions to shape our reality.

by Lang Leav
HarperCollins, September 2023
(via Writers House)

What comes first, the photograph or the memory? The daughter of Cambodian refugees, Ai grew up in the small Australian town of Whitlam populated by Asian immigrants who once fled war-torn countries to rebuild their shattered lives. It is now the late 90’s and despite their parent’s harrowing past, Ai and her tightknit group of school friends: charismatic Brigitte, sweet, endearing Bowie, shy, inscrutable Tin, and politically minded Sying, lead seemingly ordinary lives, far removed from the unimaginable horrors suffered by their parents.
But that carefree innocence is shattered in their last year of school when Ai and her friends encounter a pair of racist men whose cruel acts of intimidation spiral into senseless violence. Grappling with the magnitude of her grief at such a young age, Ai leaves Whitlam for college before her trauma has a chance to fully resolve.
In her second year of college Ai suffers a mental health crisis, driving her back home to Whitlam, a place she swore never to return. There, she reconnects with those she left behind and together they are compelled to look back on the tragedy that shaped their adolescence and examine the role they may have unwittingly played.

Lang Leav is the author of several previous poetry collections, including Love & Misadventure, which was a breakout success in 2013. Her YA novel Sad Girls was published in 2016 and was an international bestseller. Her books often reach #1 on the Straits Times bestseller list in Singapore/Malaysia, where her tour events have drawn large crowds; her previous books have also received major support from bookstores and chains in Australia, New Zealand, the UAE, and Indonesia, where she is incredibly popular. Lang has been featured on CNN, SBS Australia, Intelligence Squared UK, Radio New Zealand and in various publications, including Vogue, Newsweek, the Straits Times, the Guardian, and the New York Times.

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