The novelist and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle gives voice to immigrant families navigating a new America, straddling two worlds but belonging to none. First released in 2016, this volume of stories contains three new tales that shine a light on the conflict between self and society, tradition and change.
While not all of the families in this book are Asian, most are, and their tales play on the well-worn 'model minority' myth of sacrificing parents and children destined to become Ivy League-grads, engineers, and doctors. Yet while these narratives often start in a familiar place, they quickly enter new territory ... Family, loyalty, love, lust: Vanessa Hua does justice to the big themes in this noteworthy debut. Yet she also succeeds by keeping it local; her city of San Francisco is a constant companion in these ten stories, lending her work authenticity and empathy. An award-winning columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Hua knows the immigrant communities that she writes about. She never resorts to ethnic caricatures. Instead, she writes her subjects’ stories as they must be told. Their choices, no matter how detrimental, are portrayed with understanding. And their deceptions, however dishonest, feel like the truth.
The stories escalated as I progressed through the collection, finishing with three exceptional pieces where the issue of race emerges organically out of the characters and situations. In these the compressed denouements poignantly accentuate the pretty stories the protagonists tell themselves to generate hope ... In these stories Hua presents an impressive range of specific characters, each illuminating in unique circumstances how the struggle to affirm identity is made trickier when one is an Asian minority in American culture. After all, we can’t entirely control how other people see us, just as we can’t entirely control how we see ourselves.
Journalist Hua’s debut in fiction is an intriguing collection of 10 stories with personal resonance from being the child of Chinese immigrants and a two-decade, continent-hopping career. Each of her protagonists is never quite grounded, caught between multiple cultures and countries. Each hides beneath layers of deceit, clinging to lies that enable survival ... Hua’s ability to imagine the detailed lives of her disparate characters, including a sex-scandal runaway, missionary saviors, and a lock-picking immigrant, gives her stories impact, despite a few jarring endings. Hua’s collection pairs well with those of Mia Alvar, Violet Kupersmith, and Tania James ... Hua is a writer to watch.