Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this debut about one family's queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets. One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman's body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow.
The poet K-Ming Chang’s debut novel, Bestiary offers up a different kind of narrative, full of magic realism that reaches down your throat, grabs hold of your guts and forces a slow reckoning with what it means to be a foreigner, a native, a mother, a daughter — and all the things in between.
Chang’s novel is like no other I have ever read. She reinvents the genres of immigrant novel, queer coming-of-age story, and mother-and-daughter tale at every level, from the use of myth to the reinvention of language, mixing dialects and Chinese characters with English ... None of these dilemmas is new, but the way Chang writes about them is revolutionary ... Chang does not shy away from graphic depictions of emotional and physical violence ... Chang’s greatest accomplishment in Bestiary may be that her artistry allows the reader to see her characters’ great resilience rather than merely their pain.
... [Chang] creates her subversive and vivid voice with skilled poetic prose and fabulist framework ... a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age story. From one generation to the next, Chang masterfully illustrates a cycle of abuse. The weight of each family member’s choices and the pain that accompanies them are present on each character as they struggle to navigate their own paths. The novel blends mythology with queer love and the immigrant experience with stunning prose. Her writing is surprising and assertive, flowing seamlessly on the page.