Sunday, July 13, 2014

Author, N. Va. native Helen Wan on the ‘bamboo ceiling’


Ingrid Yung is a made-up character, but her story seems to resonate with the real-life Asian American lawyers gathered for a book reading in the Washington offices of the corporate law firm Wiley Rein. Ingrid, a minority and a woman, is a “two-fer” in the parlance of her fictional firm, where her impatience with its clumsy approach to diversity threatens her promising career. “We didn’t need [expletive] Dumpling Day in the firm cafeteria,” Ingrid fumes in the new novel “The Partner Track,” published by St. Martin’s Press. “We needed decoder rings for all of the unwritten rules of survival here.”

Ingrid’s creator is lawyer and novelist Helen Wan, who grew up in the Northern Virginia suburb of Burke. Her debut book, a witty yet pointed exploration of the difficulties Asian Americans have advancing in corporate culture, has clearly exposed a nerve. The eager response from readers sent it back for a second printing after an initial run of 50,000 in September, a rare achievement for a first-time author. A Wall Street Journal reviewer called the book engaging and suspenseful and praised Wan’s realistic depiction of law firm culture. Law firms and law schools across the country have invited Wan to speak to groups such as the one at Wiley Rein, organized by the D.C. chapter of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

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