cover image The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir

The Impossible City: A Hong Kong Memoir

Karen Cheung. Random House, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-24143-1

Reflecting on the multivalenced reality of life in Hong Kong, journalist Cheung’s debut leaps from one charged historical moment to the next to capture “the many ways a city can disappear, but also the many ways we, its people, survive.” Beginning in 1997—with the hand over of the city to China—Cheung interweaves personal essay with reportage as she examines the interstices of culture and commerce from the vantage of both insider and outsider. Born in 1993 in Shenzhen to a mother from Wuhan and a father from Hong Kong, Cheung bounced between Singapore and Hong Kong after her parents separated when she was young; attending an international school that gave her an American accent, she still felt a desire to prove to her peers that she was a real Hong Konger. Cheung is best at delivering personal missives about city life: attending indie music shows in east Kowloon; surviving exorbitant rents by cycling through 22 roommates in six years; and struggling with a depression that drove her to attempt suicide while in college in Hong Kong. She also hauntingly captures the tumult of the city’s political protests, “moments of awakening... when... we no longer wanted Hong Kong to be only a background for our personal dramas.” The result is a riveting portrait of a place that’s as captivating as it is confounding. (Feb.)