In Christine Ma-Kellams‘ debut novel, THE BAND, Sang Duri is the eldest member and “visual” of a Korean boy band at the apex of global dominion. But when his latest solo single accidentally drudges up ancient rivalries between East Asia’s three superpowers (Korea, Japan, China), he suddenly finds himself cancelled by the group’s notorious fandom known as much for their commitment as their obsession. To spare the band from the fallout with fans and cope with his own increasing anxiety, Duri disappears from the public eye by hiding out in the McMansion of a Chinese-American woman he meets in an Angeleno H-Mart. But she is both unhappily married with children and a practicing psychologist with a savior complex, a combination that makes their potential union both seductive and incredibly problematic.
Meanwhile, what no one foresees is that Duri’s cancellation catapults not only a series of repressed memories from his music producer’s earlier years about the original girl group whose tragic disbanding preceded his current success, but also a spiral of increasingly violent interactions between his band and the public that ultimately culminates in an award show bombing whose reverberations forever alter both the fates of the members themselves and the nature of the music industry.
In its indicting portrayal of mental health and public obsession, fandom and cancel culture, THE BAND considers how old tribal allegiances based on ethnicity or history can disrupt modern-day celebrity and the many ways in which love devolves into something far more sinister when its demands are unmet.