cover image The Last Communist Virgin

The Last Communist Virgin

Ping Wang, Wang Ping, . . Coffee House, $14.95 (192pp) ISBN 978-1-56689-195-0

Wang's second story collection follows two collections of poetry (The Magic Whip and Of Flesh and Spirit ), a nonfiction work on footbinding (Aching for Beauty ) and a novel (Foreign Devil ). These seven loosely linked tales follow emigrés from the Chinese mainland to New York and environs. The title story, by far the longest, finds recurring narrator Wan Li in New York, homesick and clueless, but relying on the kindness of friends to get her an apartment share in Queens, a restaurant hostess job and a rich boyfriend (who doesn't realize that she really is a virgin bumpkin). "Forage" is a depressing look at the grasping single-mindedness of Wan Li's friend, Jeanne Shin, whose ascension into New York money hinges on "sweat and semen." "House of Anything You Wish" traces the despair of a young husband lodged in an Atlantic City casino, ruminating on the effect of assimilation on his beloved wife and son. Wang manages a magical realist return to China in the final story, "Maverick," where a man grieving for a lost river goddess (with whom he lived for 18 years) recalls her as the area is about to be flooded by a dam. Wang goes far beyond typical immigration story fare into uncharted territory. (Apr.)