cover image Cinema Love

Cinema Love

Jiaming Tang. Dutton, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-47433-4

This resonant and textured debut traces the secret lives of gay men and their wives in 1980s China and their loneliness in contemporary New York City’s Chinatown. As a young man, Old Second leaves his village in shame after his family discovers his sexuality. In the city of Fuzhou, he falls in love with a man named Shun-Er, whom he meets at the Workers’ Cinema, which is known for showing war films to a gay clientele who meet for sex in the screening rooms. Out of convenience, Old Second marries Bao Mei, a woman who works at the cinema’s ticket counter, and they immigrate to New York City in the 1990s. A parallel narrative follows Yan Hua and her marriage to Shun-Er, who dies by suicide in 1989 and whose ghost continues to haunt her after she comes to the U.S. as a “puppet wife” to Frog, the “discount-bin husband” her family paid in exchange for her green card. Tang laces the narrative with Dickensian details of Chinatown’s underground economy (Frog and Yan Hua live in a cramped, six-dollar per night “motel” room shared by many others in bunk beds), and lyrically portrays Old Second’s longing for same-sex intimacy (“A barrier has been erected around his heart, and though he can look past it like clean glass, he finds there are certain thresholds he can no longer cross”). Tang announces himself as a writer to watch with this unshakable novel. Agent: Kent Wolf, Neon Literary. (May)