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Love Made of Heart bookcover

  A Book Review by Victor Turks, San Francisco, CA  October 2002

An Author Made of Heart---Teresa LeYung Ryan

Love Made of Heart, Kensington Publishing Corp., NY   311 pages

   No matter which way you cut it,  in the center of the Chinese word for love is the word 'heart.' While love proves elusive, behind Ryan's writing is a steady heartbeat, pounding out life's harrowing and beautiful irregularities.

    Bay Area author Teresa LeYung Ryan has written a wonderful book with a lot of heart. (Love Made of Heart; Kensington Publishing Corp., NY; October 2002). To make fine and compelling poetry out of a dysfunctional life takes some doing. And when all your dreams aren't working, it also takes enormous courage, sensitivity,  and compassion.

  "So many kinds of love.  Have you ever thought about that?” a character in Ryan's book asks.  And it could be Ryan herself posing the question in the sense that a writer is all her characters when she sets out to write a novel.

   “To borrow from Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner - and William Shakespeare – Teresa LeYung Ryan's book is a tale full of sound and fury signifying something."

    As the fascinating story unravels, we learn that the protagonist, first-person narrator Ruby Lin has a boss who's a jerk, a mother who's mad, and a broken-English speaking immigrant dad who routinely beats his wife, driving a "woe-is-me" Ruby to productive psychotherapy sessions with the all-knowing and sympathetic Dr. Thatcher, as in the old English, "thatch," meaning "to mend," "sort out," and "fix."  In a nutshell, heal.  At first Ruby pouts that "Psychotherapy is for the birds."  But then it dawns on her that birds can fly.  

   In Romeo and Juliet, another and much older story about first degree heartbreak, Shakespeare called psychotherapy plain old philosophy, and considered it "adversity's sweet milk."  No matter what you call it,  Ryan shows that the never-ending search for meaning in life goes on, as Ruby, with all the God-given strength she can muster,  tries to rise above the pain and confusion that pull so many people under. Over the football stadium wall at George Washington High School,  a stone's throw from where I live, loom Plato's words:  "Of All Victories the First and Greatest is for a Man ( or Woman ) to Conquer Himself ( or Herself )."  The great Greek philosopher challenges us to put that in our pipe and smoke it.  And the great-hearted Ryan holds out the same hope with her book. 

    Ryan - no, I take that back.  Ruby Lin, rather, has a powerful story to tell made of heart, yes, but also one with lots of earth, wind, and fire in it, which happens to be the name of the inspirational group whose music soothes Ruby's soul during very trying, emotionally and spiritually-speaking, times.

    As an artist, Ryan is superb, inviting the reader on a journey through thickets of pain and confusion to sanity and greater understanding of people and what makes them tick, for me the book's saving grace.  Ryan tells it lucidly like it is - and was - with admirable integrity and restraint. (No tedious over-writing for effect in this novel.)  In this beautifully balanced book,  all the heartbreak is revealed,  and all the healthy healing and hard-fought understanding, too.

   Though the tale is a tough one, and personal anguish abounds, we are not made to wallow in unrelieved despair and misery. With its reader-friendly tone of convincing realism and reassuring good sense,   Ryan's artful memoiresque novel delicately tip-toes the fine line between fiction and creative non-fiction, making believers of us all. "Is this stuff really true ? you wonder. "Did all that happen ?"   Like the great Homer, Ryan is a singer and "Love Made of Heart" is both the odyssey of her people and  her eloquent song.  Just like Earth, Wind, and Fire's "That's the Way of the World."   It sure is ! 

   With her debut book, a labor of love which took seven years to perfect, Ryan joins the pantheon of noteworthy writers whose work matters. Teresa LeYung Ryan is a name to remember.



Love Made of Heart, Kensington Publishing Corp., NY  311 page

How does a young girl learn what it means to be woman? What if that girl is fresh from Hong Kong to San Francisco, and desperate to become a true American girl?

Ruby Lin, the protagonist in Teresa LeYung Ryan’s touching and redemptive debut novel LOVE MADE OF HEART, rejects Vivian, her mother, as a role model, unwilling to believe that the measure of a woman and wife is to accept her husband’s verbal and physical abuse. Instead, Ruby turns to American television and black-and-white movies, wanting only to become the Chinese-American equivalent of Sandra Dee.

We soon learn that Ruby’s relationship with Vivian is nothing like the one Samantha Stephens from “Bewitched” has with her mother. Ruby’s father is a far cry from the gentle and understanding men Ruby watches on “Family Affair”  and “Bachelor Father.”

But it is Joan Crawford, Ruby’s heroine from the movies, who teaches her how to handle men. When a boyfriend becomes disrespectful, Ruby does not fall into the role her mother assumed. In a scene that is perfectly paced and in vivid detail, we watch, as Ruby becomes Joan Crawford herself. We cheer for Ruby when she majestically rids herself of the brute.

Later, because Ruby has grown up believing that the Cartwright brothers from “Bonanza” were truly great men for the way they treat women and children, how can she resist when another of her suitors flashes a Michael Landon smile and proposes.

Throughout this sensitive tale, Teresa LeYung Ryan captures the lasting effects an abusive childhood has on Ruby, and chronicles Vivian’s descent into madness. Women readers of all ages would be well served to learn from the lessons Ruby learned on the silver screen. In her quest to become a true American, Ruby also learns how to become a woman.



An interview . . .

Big and Wonderful Dreams

An interview with Teresa LeYung Ryan by B. Lynn Goodwin of WRITER ADVICE 

(Kensington Publishing Corp., NY, ISBN 0-7582-0216-4 hardcover, Oct. 2002;  ISBN 0-7582-0217-2 trade paperback, Oct. 2003)


In Teresa LeYung Ryan's LOVE MADE OF HEART, Ruby's mother is fleeing from an

abusive husband. She holes up in her daughter's apartment until Ruby calls in

professional assistance. When the social worker takes her mother away, it

unleashes guilt and triggers memories of a dysfunctional past.


Ruby is a successful Chinese-American career woman caught between familial

expectations and hope for a full, independent, adult life. Her skill with

relationships is built on a rocky foundation, but strengthened by Mrs.

Nussbaum, a wise, elderly neighbor.


In LOVE MADE OF HEART Ryan deals with the specifics of the Chinese-American

culture and the far-reaching impact of dysfunctional families. Her probing

style touches the heartstrings. The story starts sadly but actively, builds

believably, and is enriched by insights as Ruby faces her demons.


Here Ryan shares her experiences creating, nurturing, and marketing her first



LG:   Tell us about yourself. When did you know you were an author? How did

you   pursue your dream of writing?


TLR: I found my voice in 1990 while reading Maxine Hong Kingston's memoir THE

WOMAN WARRIOR. That weekend, I set out on a new writer's



I thought I would have my book written in a year. . .   Five years later I

sent the entire manuscript to an agent. (Was I green! I didn't know anything

about query letters.) When the "no thank you"

letter arrived, I thought there must be a mistake.


I didn't know I wasn't supposed to call the agent, so I did.   "Linda, can

you tell me why you didn't like my manuscript? I'm the author of the book of

short stories, umm, with a common thread . . ." After what seemed like a

whole minute of silence, Linda said, "Teresa, I didn't see any common thread

in your stories." I swallowed hard, said "thank you,"   and let depression

take over.


Six months later, a member of my critique group said, "Why don't you write

Maxine Hong Kingston a letter?"   Maxine wrote back!   She gave me the name

of her agent!   I fantasized away . . . I'll send out the manuscript this

week, the agent will call next week, fame and fortune the following week.

(Are you laughing?) That "no thank you" letter came many weeks later. I let

sorrow overtake me.


Did I stop writing?   No.   I continued my search and after listening to

James Frey talk about the power of myth at the Jack London Writers'

Conference, I joined the California Writers' Club.


LG:   How much of your story is true and how much is fictionalized?


TLR:   Prior to late 1997 I thought I was writing the "whole truth" but

because the stories were so personal, I was really censoring myself (afraid

to be judged). Then a new character-purely fictional- gave me permission to

tell the truth. Some writers would call this character the muse; I call her

Mrs. Nussbaum. (She is the "heart" of the novel.)


After Mrs. Nussbaum came along, protagonist Ruby Lin had someone to tell her

story to.   What started out as a memoir evolved into a novel. The

protagonist that I had created took on her own identity. I began to see "her"

as my firstborn.   My only concern was to let "her" tell her story.  


LG: Do you have any tips about writing an autobiographical novel? about

writing a first novel?


TLR: Behind each face is a compelling story.   Find your inspiration/voice or

let it find you. Know the answer to this question: "What's my point?"   Give

yourself permission to write-to create-to give birth.


LG:   What is the value of writing groups? How did they help you revise, edit

and polish?


TLR: If not for the critique group, I might have given up long ago.   The

members were tireless, even when I brought in the same chapter, meeting after

meeting, crafting and polishing.


LG: From conception to publication, how long did it take you to write LOVE

MADE OF HEART? What is your writing process?


TLR: I   was a full-time secretary while writing LOVE MADE OF HEART. Remember

it was 1990 when I started?   Eight years later, just when I thought I would

give birth to the novel, a new writer-friend, Martha Alderson, read part of

my manuscript, and said, "Teresa, where's your

front story?"


"What's that? I asked.   Martha explained: "A plotline. You don't have one." 

 She told me about Christopher Vogler's book, THE WRITER'S JOURNEY, where he

uses Joseph Campbell's ideas of the hero's journey.


I must have cried that day.   I must have gotten angry too.   But the dreamer

in me kept going.   I learned how to plot.   Thank you, Martha. Then from

Luisa Adams I learned how to "dig deeper."   From Susan Canale, I learned not

to bury poignancy "between the lines." Keeping the integrity of my narrator's

voice came naturally.


LG: Wonderful answer. How did you find your agent and publisher?


TLR: In the summer of 1999 I sent out 60 query letters to agents.   By

October, four agents wanted to read the entire manuscript. I gave one agent a

3-week exclusive reading time. She didn't care for the story, so, on to the

next agent.


The agent who became "my agent" was the "godmother for my child.†Just last

year, Stacey told me how she had found me . . . "Teresa, I was looking

through the 'slush pile' when I saw your query letter and your first two



There was yet another cliffhanger when Stacey pitched my novel to 22

publishers and they all said "no thank you." That story will be on my

website. The message here: Never give up on yourself.   And surround yourself

with people who won't give up on you.


LG: How are you helping Kensington market the novel?


TLR: I believe in the magic of networking and synchronicity. I was already

committed to work a booth for the Women's National Book Association at the

Northern California Independent Booksellers Association tradeshow when my

publisher asked me to appear at that event. Timing was perfect. My book came

out October 1, 2002; the tradeshow was Oct. 5-6. There I met the sales

director at my publisher's; she's an ally now. So are two independent sales

representatives. I've been very lucky. But then, I've been working very hard.


Also, prior to October, through the help of friends and mentors, I had

already landed gigs at bookstores. "How to get gigs and when to get them"

will be on my website as well.


LG: Where can people find copies of your book? What are you working on now?


TLR: LOVE MADE OF HEART made her way into the big chains and also many

independent bookstores.   Your favorite bookstore or library can order any

title that's in print. Please support them; thus helping "my little girl"

touch lives.


Have I started on a second novel? Yes, three years ago. Let's say "she" is

expected to be born this summer 2003. It'll be another two years before "she"

is in print.


To fellow writers and readers: I wish you big and wonderful dreams. May you

materialize all your dearest dreams.


LG: Thank you for sharing your ideas and enthusiasm.


Teresa LeYung Ryan's website is and plotting teacher

Martha Alderson's website is


Her novel continues to earn acclaim. It is on the "Required Reading" list of

a Sociology class, and she recently spoke to a class at UC Berkeley about one

of the underlying themes of the book--domestic violence. Think of Ryan as a

woman who uses story-telling to advocate YES! to compassion for mental

illness and NO! to domestic violence/child abuse.


If her novel is not in stock, ask your local bookstore or library to order

it. Though she writes about specific people, the message in LOVE MADE OF HEART 

is universal and everyone who has ever been a

part of a family should read it.