Perhaps most vitally, though, the story’s savvy urban rush never jostles the gently endearing path of Hwang’s delicate...

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IN FULL BLOOM

Wry humor, lively dialogue, and a compassionate take on being a single woman under a traditional mother’s matchmaking thumb enliven this insightful debut.

Ginger Lee, a Korean-American Ph.D. dropout playing at “fashion assistant” for a trendy Manhattan magazine, likes her life. She’s had no need for a long-term man, especially not a Korean one, ever since her father abandoned her, and her brother, George, entered his controversial marriage to a white woman (he hasn’t called since). As for her “career” (a favor from her editor-in-chief-best-friend), it’s limping along just fine, thank you. But when her mother, a “Korean Nancy Reagan,” suddenly catapults in from Milwaukee to find Ginger “a good Korean husband” before her daughter’s “bloom” fades (and when at the same time a slippery masthead coup ignites a flurry of fashionista catfights that threaten Ginger’s job), life takes a turn awry. To placate her mother, Ginger accepts numerous blind dates, and, to her utter shock, the conservative Koreans actually reject her. At the magazine, meanwhile, the publishers want blood, and Ginger seems the most likely “donor.” Her confidence shattered, she does what all good daughters do—turns to her mother. And, surprisingly, after several late-night strategy talks, the traditional mater begins to make sense: Ginger realizes what she does and does not want in a man, and, after a lot of new-found gumption for the idea of “work,” she gets promoted. Humbled, Ginger reconsiders her preconceptions about her heritage and realizes that it’s only by embracing both her mother and her Asian roots that she will truly bloom. A seasoned New York magazine editor herself, Hwang paints a deliciously scathing portrait of life behind the catwalk, while her sharp ear for dialogue captures the fictional mother’s broken Korean-English perfectly.

Perhaps most vitally, though, the story’s savvy urban rush never jostles the gently endearing path of Hwang’s delicate mother-daughter bond.

Pub Date: March 24, 2003

ISBN: 0-525-94711-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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