Author Spotlight: Kevin Kwan

Singaporean-American author Kevin Kwan swept the world with his novels, Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems. What was intended to be a satire has taken on a life of its own and become a collection of highly relatable anecdotes that many Asians (regardless of how crazy rich) are able to relate to.

Kwan was born in Singapore in the ’70s, the youngest of three boys. He belonged to an affluent Chinese family, with a lineage of different professionals who were highly valuable to their respective fields. Kwan stayed with his paternal grandparents while he lived in Singapore and studied at the Anglo-Chinese School. Kwan’s parents moved the family to Clear Lake, Texas, when he was 11.

After graduating from Clear Lake High School, Kwan attended the University of Houston and earned a BA in Media Studies. He then moved to New York and attended the Parsons School of Design, pursuing a BFA in Photography. Kwan stayed and worked in New York, working for Interview Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and M&Co.

In 2009, Kwan started thinking about writing a book, inspired by his father, who was dying of cancer at the time. While accompanying his father to medical appointments, they would reminisce about their time in Singapore. Kwan would jot down these memories, and later on, Kwan was further encouraged by friends to put these stories in paper, as an Asian with a Westernized view of Singapore. This became Crazy Rich Asians.

Crazy Rich Asians (2013) is the first book on the trilogy. The first book was inspired by Kwan’s childhood in Singapore. The story focuses on a couple belonging to Chinese high society and details their entire clans’ preparation for their wedding, which is a lavish society event. Kwan intended to introduce “a contemporary Asia to North America” through the novel.

Crazy Rich Asians was followed by China Rich Girlfriend in 2015, then Rich People Problems in 2017. In the trilogy, Kwan draws on the experience of being part of an established Chinese lineage and being an observer to Asian aristocracy. The characters in his books are based on real people he’s met.

In 2018, Crazy Rich Asians was adapted into a film, propelling Kwan and his trilogy to the limelight. The film starred Constance Wu and Henry Golding alongside an Asian cast. Crazy Rich Asians was the first modern-era movie to feature a mostly Asian American cast since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. Due to its success, a sequel was confirmed by Warner Bros. after its opening.

Currently, the film is enjoying a near-perfect score on the popular film critique site Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics credit the success of the film not only to its great casting, but also to its technical execution, its relatability to many Asian viewers, and its effective use of the rom-com formula.

Kwan currently resides in Manhattan but is on tour for his trilogy. He plans to set writing novels aside for a while in favor of writing for television shows in the future.


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