Stories that center the bodies, memories, myths, and relationships of Asian American women, in the vein of the relationships in Killing Eve and Yellowjackets—from the National Book Award “5 Under 35” honoree and author of Bestiary.
Chang has a special talent for forging history into myth and myth into present-day fiction ... Some of the stories are less conventional than others ... Gods of Want is unified by recurrences of word and image ... The recurrences create the sense across the stories of a shared history — of colonization of land and language, of immigration, of desire — as well as a shared wealth and depth of myths through which to view the world’s cruelties and glories alike.
The fierce little machines found in the Taiwanese American writer K-Ming Chang’s first collection, Gods of Want...feel so unexpected: Each one is possessed of a powerful hunger, a drive to metabolize the recognizable features of a familiar world and transform them into something wilder, and achingly alive ... Chang pushes language into strange, roiling reversals, eroding its given meanings ... At times, the rhythmic, idiosyncratic nature of these transformations can feel somewhat repetitive, but the insistent quality of Chang’s aesthetic is a powerful gesture in and of itself ... Chang channels the churn, the precarity, the ambient disquiet and threat of disappearance that are part of the émigré experience into sinewy text that mirrors this deep fungibility. It’s a voracious, probing collection, proof of how exhilarating the short story can be.
... resists words like 'magical' and 'mythical' and 'dreamlike' because it takes magic, myth, and dreams so seriously. Given that so many new books include those words or others (from 'fabulous' to 'innovative') on their covers and in their blurbs, when new fiction arrives that really demands them, clarification is needed. No, no…this is the real deal. For better and worse, Gods of Want actually tries to be new, to see what a short story can hold. The collection is, refreshingly, very strange ... Because Chang’s fiction doesn’t really recognize a distinction between the magical and nonmagical, the invisible lines between familiar categories—natural and supernatural, or dangerous and loving—smear and run like watercolors ... Despite Bestiary’s success, Gods of Want’s 16 stories suggest that the short story is the form best suited to Chang’s fiction ... Chang takes so well to the short story because its compression intensifies the effect of her style. The short story’s limitations of size and scope allow things we might consider smaller than plot and character (like voice, setting, or tone) to be a story’s engine, its featured attraction. In other words, the boundedness of the short story works as the taut wire for Chang’s acrobatics of language and image. Like a stage or a playing field, the form of the short story establishes the limited space where things occur. Where Bestiary occasionally sprawls through generations, countries, and magical incarnations, Gods of Want’s best stories narrow their apertures ... In some places Gods of Want works less well, and these moments point to the difficulty of Chang’s highwire act. The stories almost always end the same, with mysterious rituals and shadowy images, everything suspended. Sometimes these endings, their lack of closure, feel appropriate; sometimes they feel a little generic, interchangeable. Occasionally Chang lingers too long, makes one move too many ... Chang’s characters, like all her stories in Gods of Want, are hungry for meat and blood—and for love, identity, a world. None of these hungers is metaphorical. Each is simply, magically, another kind of wanting.