... stunning ... It's a powerful collection that explores what happens when lives break down, when it becomes hard to find a word—any word—to express profound loss and anguish ... There's not a story in Hao that's anything less than gorgeous. Ye, who's also a literary translator, has an uncanny ability to explore the vocabularies that we build around ourselves, the ways that we communicate, and what happens when those break down. It's a beautiful collection that looks at people who have nothing but their words—until they don't.
... beautiful, poetic ideograms accompany each story ... These haunted and haunting stories do not tie up their tangles neatly. There is rarely 'resolution' and often the stories conclude in precarity, uncertainty, and with more questions and hurt than those with which they began. However, unfolding like the triangular planes of a hand-held paper 'fortune teller' game (also called 'chatterboxes'), the series of stories opens and conceals and closes and reveals in a way that allows the circumstances of one protagonist to 'answer' or mirror or rhyme with or deepen our understanding of the others ... Calligraphy, of course, means 'beautiful writing,' and this collection is full of it. Ye’s sentences are both lyrical and muscular: spare and acutely alive ... Each of the stories in Hao creates, even in the most unfathomable situations, 'a small clearing'—for love, for self, for connection.
Slow, somber and often elegant, Hao thematically foregrounds language. Rather than reproducing the trite ethos of language as power, Ye shows how words operate as weapons, comforts, memories and insufficient — if sometimes beautiful — representations of intent.
Ye powerfully renders the displacement felt by recent immigrants fitfully learning the language, to further highlight the cultural divide they face, and to demonstrate that they seem to have no way but forward ... Each one closes without resolution, but remains stirring. Although hao may be misapplied, Ye’s characters are clear about what is wrong with the situations they find themselves in and their particular struggles, as rendered by Ye, are universal and poignant.
Bilingual Chinese American writer, poet, and translator Ye showcases her linguistic prowess in a prodigious debut collection featuring women on both sides of the globe, many defined and confined by and reliant on motherhood ... Each of Ye’s dozen stories astounds.
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 ... 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.
Ancestral experiences echo throughout the dozen stories as Ye’s protagonists battle cyclical repressions and common losses ... all of these sensitive tales amplify voices that have often been silenced. These battles are fought with pens, stick figures, tender drawings on a child’s back; silent screams are in the background.