A struggling PhD student makes a shocking discovery about a famous Chinese American poet that sets into motion a series of escalating events, both humorous and fraught, that culminates in an incendiary reckoning of her relationships, beliefs, and identity.
Explore[s] in blistering detail the power imbalances that inevitably exist in academia—and their unsettling consequences ... [A] searing satire ... Chou details her protagonist’s struggles with dry humor and wit, underlining everything about her life that is absurd, just as Ingrid herself is beginning to see it ... The combination of knowledge, power and misbehavior makes for a titillating story.
The hyperactive satire is so consistently funny it almost makes the reader forget about the serious societal issues that undergird the humor ... As a comedic heroine, Ingrid is easy to root for, due mainly to her bumbling nature and the fact that she’s surrounded by White people of dubious character ... Admirably, the book doesn’t just take shots at problematic White people. Supporting characters highlight unsavory aspects of the Asian American experience as well ... On occasion, Chou shoots for laughs over character consistency and plausibility ... Despite these speed bumps, Disorientation does what great comedies and satires are supposed to do: make you laugh while forcing you to ponder the uncomfortable implications of every punchline. In this book’s universe, for example, the authenticity of every interracial relationship is questioned. Chou’s novel is a promising debut, one that makes this reader look forward to what she will make fun of next.
Disorientation is a satire, and it is frequently funny and insightful, with plenty to say about art, identity, Orientalism and the politics of academia ... The satire loses its bite when the novel diverges too far from observable reality ... Ingrid sometimes feels less like a naïve 29-year-old grad student than an alien visitor from a parallel earth ... And yet, the zaniness is, on balance, entertaining, rising to a delightful climax at Ingrid’s dissertation defense. The detail work is sometimes shoddy...but the construction holds, with no lack of charm or character.