In the late 1980s on the Jersey shore, Jane Wong watches her mother shake ants from an MSG bin behind the family's Chinese restaurant. She is a hungry daughter frying crab rangoon for lunch, a child sneaking naps on bags of rice, a playful sister scheming to trap her brother in the freezer before he traps her first. Jane is part of a family staking their claim to the American dream, even as this dream crumbles. Beneath Atlantic City's promise lies her father's gambling addiction, an addiction that causes him to disappear for days and ultimately leads to the loss of the restaurant.
Honoring the full depth...in a single review is as impossible as celebrating the full richness of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage in a single month ... Wong’s book is reminiscent of an abstract watercolor, free-flowing, nonlinear, without clear borders.
The book catalogues the highs and lows of the literary life, turning over, at length, the joys of acceptance, the ache of rejection, the ecstasy of professional recognition and the sting of casual racism in the field ... Wong has a sharp eye for detail, irony and metaphor ... While...particular citations feel at times redundant, like a second self brought in to lend authority to the discursive throughline, they showcase the literary prowess and commitment to craft that Wong has nourished over the course of her career.
Blazing, lyrical ... Wong pairs her painfully specific knowledge of poverty, cultural dislocation, and discrimination with a poet’s conjuring skills and a sociologist’s research ... It’s the visceral descriptions of sorrow and anxiety that stick with the reader.