Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Comparative Literature


Robert Cullen

Subject Areas

Comparative Literature


The novel Million Dollar Red connects the lives of six women in Eastside San Jose in pursuit of a common set of desires to be beautiful, happy, and something other than what they were when they walked into Quynh's Nail Salon. The third person limited point of view shifts protagonists every time a character comes into contact with a certain shade of red nail polish, Million Dollar Red. According to Quynh, the owner of the salon, the polish has the magical power to give women what they need but not what they want. Once the six women have encountered the color, the narrative rotates through their lives, alternating between manicurist and client. Each client enters the salon with a personal conflict, but this conflict changes with the application of the red polish and the interaction with the manicurist. In the backdrop, the manicurists struggle with the central conflict: the impending health inspection. Million Dollar Red exaggerates the differences and similarities of the women in Eastside San Jose, pitting their cultural stereotypes against each other comically, ironically, and sometimes tragically. The women, propelled by a desire to be at least a little different from who they are, find themselves driven towards each other, and in some cases, realize that they do want essentially the same things, no matter where they come from.