|The magazine of University of Houston-Clear Lake
Fall 2013/Winter 2014 | volume 20 | number 1
Crazily Creating Success
Oprah, Elizabeth Taylor and graphic design guru Tibor Kalman are just a few of the famous names associated with UHCL alumnus Kevin Kwan. However, it’s not any of these names that got him press in Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New York Times, but rather his surprisingly refreshing first novel, “Crazy Rich Asians.”
The photographer/writer published his novel to much praise in July 2013 and has been sailing from interview to media event to book readings ever since, finding more success than he thought possible when he wrote the novel.
Kwan, a 1994 graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, has the talent though and shared it with the world, first as a photographer, second as an artist/designer and third as a writer. He worked for Kalman, consulted on Elizabeth Taylor’s “My Love Affair with Jewelry” and offered artistic guidance for “The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American Legacy.” In 2007, Kwan co-authored “I Was Cuba: Treasures from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection.” But, readers of Egret might remember him from an interview in the spring 2008 issue when the world was abuzz with Kwan’s book, “Luck: The Essential Guide.”
Luck will only get a person so far though; Kwan added talent.
“When Kevin Kwan was new to UHCL, a couple of my returning students said, ‘Oh, you’ve got to meet him,’ ” remembers Professor of Literature John Gorman. “And sure enough, when he enrolled in my undergraduate creative writing course, I was impressed and delighted by his talent.”
“I would recommend Dr. Gorman’s class for anyone wanting to write,” says Kwan, who used the class to hone his skills, but referred to his childhood trips to Singapore as inspiration for the themes in his current book. “Crazy Rich Asians” shares the story of Rachel, an Americanborn Chinese woman, traveling to Singapore for the first time to meet her boyfriend Nicholas Young’s rich Asian family, or as one online synopsis puts it, “a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.”
“Every time I visited Singapore, I was exposed to such extremes of wealth and privilege so different from my life here in America, and I wanted to share this outrageous world with readers,” says Kwan.
He admits to finding his inspiration in people, first and foremost, as well as travel, films, food and books.
UHCL Professor Emeritus of Media Studies Jib Fowles has followed Kwan’s success.
“Kevin has always been conspicuously multi-talented,” says Fowles. “Not only did he write well and possess that fluency with the written word that so few have naturally, but he also had a superb visual sense.”
“When he left for New York, I was certain he’d succeed. And, he did,” says Gorman. “We can expect even greater things from a prize alumnus.” Settled neatly in New York literary circles, Kwan admits that “Crazy Rich Asians” is just the beginning.
When asked about a possible sequel, he reveals that there is more to the story.
“I’ve always envisioned the whole story unfolding over three books.”
As that work continues, Kwan offers some advice to other hopeful writers. “Don’t ever be afraid to let out your inner freak. Allow yourself to be as daring or strange or experimental as you want to be.”
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