A compilation offers nine short stories written by Chinese immigrant authors, loosely linked by a common theme.
In editor Wang Yuan’s (Beijing Women Stories, 2014) collection, each tale revolves around the idea of “strangeness”—landing in a place where you don’t necessarily feel you belong. The stories in the book vary in tone, lyricalness, and original language in which they were written. While Wang Yuan indicates in the book’s foreword that she initially hoped to compile “stories written in English by ethnic Chinese authors,” she ultimately included several pieces that were translated from Chinese to English (but still fit the theme well). Several standouts include “The Bug” by Lily Chu, in which a protagonist contemplates the life of a wood borer bug that is stuck living inside of her headboard; “Vacances à Paris,” by Christina Yao, in which an unfulfilled Chinese-American woman rediscovers her sexuality and desire by having an extramarital affair in France; and “The Golden Venture,” by Yili, in which the author offers an illuminating (and somewhat harrowing) description of what life is like for Chinese immigrants in New York City—and those who are trying to leave China to reach America. In “Venture,” an immigrant who lives in a noisy basement in the Bronx with her husband observes: “People at home always think that America is a paradise. Didn’t we think the same way?” Wang Yuan has done a nice job of choosing stories that fit her theme. Several tales in the volume also tie together other thought-provoking, common concepts, like the struggles that immigrants face in America and Canada; what it was like to live through the Cultural Revolution in China; and the effects that a loveless marriage or extramarital affair can have on an individual. One standout aspect of the book is that the editor includes short conversations with the authors after their stories. These interviews provide an excellent chance to glean insight into the meanings of the pieces, the writers’ backgrounds, and the experiences that informed the works.
An intriguing collection that focuses on strangers, with several revelatory and enlightening tales.