Only a writer who knows how closely bound are heartbreak and resilience could write stories as emotionally stirring as these.


An original and delightfully off-kilter debut collection about searching for a sense of belonging.

Set mostly in Chinese American communities in California, some of Au's stories explore the cost of immigration and its toll on families. In "The Richmond," for example, Mei laments being singled out by the cafeteria lady, who speaks differently to her than to her white classmates. She can't understand why her parents love their neighborhood, why her mother counsels her to accept that someone will always "label us as immigrants as if that were a bad thing." But just 11, Mei also doesn't yet understand the famine and genocide her parents fled, the haunting image of "Mama's childhood friend on her a soldier towered over her." Elsewhere, Au's characters find themselves adrift because of age ("This Is Me"); ambition ("Little Harlot"); or sexual orientation ("Louise"). In the devastating "Spider Love Song," Sophie is emotionally lost after her parents vanish. She carries on living with her grandmother, cooking as her mother taught her, still wearing an increasingly smelly elephant costume that she donned the day her parents disappeared. "We are waiting," Sophie tells a woman who tries to lure her away, a sign of strength rather than weakness. Au writes with keen understanding of children's need to see the good in their flawed parents; many stories turn on moments of children applying the balm of their imaginations to painful situations. In "Wearing My Skin," when Shelly inadvertently learns that her father didn't die, that he abandoned them, she doesn't lash out at her mother for lying. Instead, she imagines making a giant collage of her parents where they "stand next to each other...holding up each other's glossy dime-store dreams."

Only a writer who knows how closely bound are heartbreak and resilience could write stories as emotionally stirring as these.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946724-20-5

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Acre

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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