Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen
Marilyn Chin, . . Norton, $13.95 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-393-33145-5
Poet Chin's irreverent first novel follows the bizarre fortunes of a Chinese family helmed by a cleaver-toting grandmother and filled out by her twin granddaughters, Moonie and Mei Ling. The girls have a hard time fitting in, in Southern California, working as delivery girls for their family's restaurant and acting as chauffeurs and translators for Granny and her friends. In chapters that read like short stories, varying in tone from darkly comedic to folktale-like, the twins stumble into adulthood. As a teenager, Mei Ling wakes up to discover her formerly slanted eyes are now round, causing her to feel glamorously Americanized and ashamed at the same time. Elsewhere, Granny asks a friend to pray the twins won't end up dancing at the Pink Pussycat. It turns out to be a valid prayer: Mei Ling relentlessly tries to bed customers, leaving responsible Moonie to keep her on a leash. Eventually, Moonie and Mei Ling graduate from the delivery truck and end up in top-notch medical schools, but even in success, their paths are comically divergent. Chin's provocative take on acculturation, immigrant life and family ties is a unique innovation.
Reviewed on: 07/20/2009