Days of Distraction

Alexandra Chang. Ecco, $26.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-295180-9
Chang’s incisive debut follows a 25-year-old Chinese-American woman as she balances an interracial relationship, her career as a technology reporter, and a drive toward self-discovery. After narrator Jing Jing’s white boyfriend, J, announces his plans to move across the country for graduate school, she follows him from San Francisco to Ithaca, N.Y. On the cross-country road trip with J, she discovers a heightened sense of her racial identity; while visiting high school friend Becca in Portland, Ore., Jing Jing quickly acknowledges her relative privilege as an East Asian compared to darker people of color after Becca, who is white, insists that “Asians have it really bad—the worst.” Similar interactions in Ithaca make her feel out of place compared to her life in California, prompting her to remember and reexamine her close childhood friendship with white girls in the Milk Club (“the name did not have overtly racial origins, but practical ones, since each girl got a carton of milk at lunch”) and consider how her ability to fit in among white people can erase her sense of self. As scattershot freelance assignments dry up, she occupies herself with research into discrimination of Chinese women throughout U.S. history, seeking a sense of purpose while J keeps a busy schedule. As J becomes condescending toward her efforts to improve their apartment, Jing Jing begins to feel estranged from him. When her father makes an uncharacteristic call from China and reveals that he’s been drinking heavily, she decides to visit, relieved to have a reason to leave Ithaca. Chang’s humorous, timely observations on race, technology, and relationships lend immediacy to the narrator’s chronicle of self-awareness. This introduces a formidably talented writer. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 12/04/2019
Release date: 03/31/2020
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-06-295181-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-0941-1782-9
MP3 CD - 978-1-0941-1783-6
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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