Amanda Lee Koe

At a chance encounter at a Berlin soirée in 1928, the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captures three very different women together in one frame: up-and-coming German actress Marlene Dietrich, who would wend her way into Hollywood as one of its lasting icons; Anna May Wong, the world’s first Chinese American star, playing bit parts while dreaming of breaking away from her father’s modest laundry; and Leni Riefenstahl, whose work as a director of propaganda art films would first make her famous–then, infamous.

From this curious point of intersection, Delayed Rays of a Star lets loose the trajectories of these women’s lives. From Weimar Berlin to LA’s Chinatown, from a bucolic village in the Bavarian Alps to a luxury apartment on the Champs-Élysées, the different settings they inhabit are as richly textured as the roles they play: siren, victim, predator, or lover, each one a carefully calibrated performance. And in the orbit of each star live secondary players–a Chinese immigrant housemaid, a German soldier on leave from North Africa, a pompous Hollywood director–whose voices and viewpoints reveal the legacy each woman left in her own time, as well as in ours.

Born in Singapore and based in New York, Amanda Lee Koe was the youngest winner of the Singapore Literature Prize for her first short story collection, Ministry of Moral Panic. She was a 2014 honorary fellow of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, and the 2017 winner of the Henfield Prize, awarded to the best work of fiction by a graduating MFA candidate at Columbia University’s Writing Program. Her debut novel, Delayed Rays of A Star, which appeared this summer with Doubleday’s Nan A. Talese imprint, was named a most anticipated book by ELLE, US Today, LA Times, Thrillist, and others.

Saturday, October 5, 11:30 a.m., FilmScene, 118 E College St, Iowa City, IA 52240