cover image Orphan Bachelors: A Memoir

Orphan Bachelors: A Memoir

Fae Myenne Ng. Grove, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-802-16221-2

In this “book of living memory,” novelist Ng (Bone) examines the cascading effects of U.S. immigration laws on her Chinese family. From Ng’s great-grandfather, a miner who was denied citizenship by the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, to her father, who eluded exclusion in 1940 by memorizing the photos, maps, and biographical details of a stranger’s life and passing them off as his own, Ng’s family history is defined by absences and secrets: “Asking was disobedience: children didn’t need to know the whole story,” she writes. Years after the Exclusion Act was repealed and the Eisenhower-era Confession Program, which lured people into confessing illegal entry, revoked her father’s citizenship, rifts within the family remained: the Ng sisters took their father’s original name while their brothers kept the one he’d assumed to stay in the U.S.; their parents’ marriage soured and the siblings became estranged. Grieving the deaths of her mother, father, and youngest brother, Ng returned home to examine her fragmented memories and scraps of handwritten ephemera for glimpses of what might be known of her whole family history, peeling back the lies her father told to survive so she might better understand her place in the world. The author’s straightforward prose and the work’s staggering scope bring home the myriad ways misguided policies damaged generations of immigrant families. Readers will be rapt. (May)