Monday, May 10, 2010

Stories from the Melting Pot: Ha Jin's A Good Fall

Chinatown in Flushing, Queens
From National Book Award–winner Jin (Waiting) comes a new collection that focuses on Flushing, one of New York City's largest Chinese immigrant communities. With startling clarity, Jin explores the challenges, loneliness and uplift associated with discovering one's place in America. Many different generational perspectives are laid out, from the young male sweatshop-worker narrator of The House Behind a Weeping Cherry, who lives in the same rooming-house as three prostitutes, to the grandfather of Children as Enemies, who disapproves of his grandchildren's desires to Americanize their names. Anxiety and distrust plague many of Jin's characters, and while the desire for love and companionship is strong, economic concerns tend to outweigh all others. In Temporary Love, Jin explores the inevitable complications of becoming a wartime couple or men and women who, unable to bring their spouses to America, cohabit... to comfort each other and also to reduce living expenses. With piercing insight, Jin paints a vast, fascinating portrait of a neighborhood and a people in flux.
                                                                                                                                     -Publishers Weekly
My personal favorites were the title story, "A Good Fall," about a Buddhist monk's unimaginable struggles with poverty and injustice as a Chinese immigrant living in New York, and "A Composer and His Parakeets," in which a musician forms a funny, touching bond with a parakeet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Memories and Melancholy: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking