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Stateside Podcast: Maria Dong’s ‘Liar, Dreamer, Thief’

Grand Central Publishing

Southwest Michigan writer Maria Dong has had a lot of jobs. She’s worked in apartment management and then later as an occupational therapist. She’s worked a stint as a temp. Over the years, she’s seen how workers can exist in precarity; how workers are treated more like tools than people.

While some of these experiences left Dong with years-worth of resentment, they also have fueled her writing.

“One of the interesting things about changing careers so many times and changing jobs so many times is it's given me this big variety of experiences to pull from,” Dong reflected

Dong weaves her work experiences and other fragments from her life into the fabric of her debut novel, “Liar, Dreamer, Thief.” The protagonist of the story – like Dong – is Korean-American, works as a temp, and grapples with mental illness. The result is a layered fantastical thriller.

“Liar, Dreamer, Thief,” which is listed as a Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Goodreads and Overdrive, is about a young woman trying to repair her glitched-up life as she surveils a man she works with – a man with whom she believes she shares some kind of connection. The truth that unravels turns out to be more surprising than she can imagine. It’s one-part “Gone Girl,” one-part “Severance,” yet has an entirely unique look at mental illness.

More so than plot, the book is driven by the emotional and internal journey of the protagonist, as she deciphers the complexities of the world around her. Dong says that she thinks this approach will connect with people who come from minority backgrounds, and don’t have the privilege of trusting the structures around them.

"[T]hat sensation or that feeling, I think, is one that…I felt my whole life. This is just another permutation of it,” Dong said.

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Ronia Cabansag is a producer for Stateside. She comes to Michigan Public from Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a BS in Media Studies & Journalism and English Linguistics with a minor in Computer Science.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.