Hao

Ye Chun. Catapult, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-1-646-22060-1
Chun’s tender and skillful debut collection explores the power and shortcomings of language for a series of Chinese women in the U.S. and China over the past three centuries. In the gripping opener, “Stars,” Luyao is doing graduate studies in the U.S. when she suffers a stroke and loses the ability to speak. Her speech therapist gives her exercises in English, which reminds her of when she learned the language as a child in China, though she craves the ability to speak Chinese again. In the title story, set during the Cultural Revolution, Qingxin plays a “word game” with her four-year-old daughter, Ming, tracing Chinese words on Ming’s back for her to guess their meaning. “Milk” depicts a young man selling roses in an unnamed Chinese city while posting commentary on his blog about anachronisms on the streets of his purported “world class metropolis.” “Gold Mountain” features an abstract but vivid portrait of 1877 anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco, as a woman takes shelter above a store and tries to decipher overheard English speech. While some stories feel like exercises, serving mainly to provide connective tissue for the overarching theme, Chun consistently reveals via bold and spare prose how characters grasp onto language as a means of belonging. Not every entry is a winner, but the best of the bunch show a great deal of promise. Agent: Caroline Eisenmann, Frances Goldin Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/01/2021
Release date: 09/07/2021
Genre: Fiction
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