PositiveThe New YorkerThe subject of The Loneliest Americans is the broad incoherence of Asian American identity, but what Kang writes about most lucidly is the way that upwardly mobile Asians like him—the ones who were raised and educated in the U.S., and are now queasily enjoying the lives that their parents always wanted for them—have made it so ...something of a circular project—a book by an Asian writer about how the Asians who write books should cede control of the story—and Kang is its reluctant protagonist ... There’s a friction between Kang’s vision of solidarity and his seemingly fatal allergy to connection ... throughout the book, Kang displays a certain paranoia about fraudulence, and voices his skepticism of the élite Asians who presume to share a bond with people unlike them ... [a] moment of recognition—with one of the book’s least sympathetic characters, no less—is moving, especially because Kang spends so much of the book strenuously distancing himself from the people he describes. His emotional pitch scarcely modulates. It’s animated by nothing as straightforward as anger or sadness but by their sideways cousins: embarrassment, annoyance, suspicion, disdain ... But Kang is as skeptical of himself as he is of others, and his perpetual self-doubt makes the book crackle with life. He preëmptively swipes at his own realizations; he walks to the precipice of epiphany and backs away. This defensive posture can become a full-body cringe ... The lasting achievement of The Loneliest Americans is that it prompts Asian Americans to think about identity in a framework other than likeness. It asks us to make meaning in ways beyond looking out for our own.
PositivePittsburgh Post-GazetteAlexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel doesn’t hand us any easy instructions ... The book is a constellation of Mr. Chee’s many selves, and its most satisfying moments can be found at their intersections. What makes this 280 page self-portrait so complex and whole is that these identities never stand alone, nor do they clash or compete. Instead, they brush up against each other like passengers on a crowded bus ... As a narrator, Alexander Chee is incisive but capacious. Identities aren’t static, and he never treats them as such. Some of his most searing insights are about moments of becoming.