Whether it's an immigrant woman who loves to watch American action movies or a young American-born woman who joins a film crew in China, these stories are about Chinese Americans trying to make sense of their divided history and culture. As both the immigrant and the American-raised generations succumb to some deeply American impulses, notions of home and language and self get misplaced, repositioned, changed, and history and memory are reinvented by nostalgia, dreams, and desire.
Sara Chin lives and works in San Francisco.
A lackluster debut collection by San Franciscan Chin. The sights of Chinatown come alive, though, in many of the stories here, as do memories of a China left behind, as a consistently female point-of-view (Chin's narrators, like the author herself, work in film production) explores the various styles of assimilation adopted by immigrants and survivors of the Revolution. In "It's Possible," a young woman on her way to a film shoot in Hong Kong finds her plane diverted to Taiwan by a typhoon. There, she's unexpectedly united with a revered uncle whom she's never met before. The uncle, an exile from the Communist mainland, shows his niece every attention, touring her around in his chauffeured car. Later, when he's moved on to a new life in a California condo, she visits him again - and then, not much later, encounters him once more at his funeral. Uncle's rather speedy demise is caused by cancer, though whether physical or spiritual in cause remains uncertain. In a similarly bittersweet tale ("Beltway"), the narrator's father, after his retirement to the suburbs, attempts to navigate the highway circling Washington, D.C., finally succeeding in backtracking to the restaurant he once owned. The title piece, perhaps the best here, shares the musings of a young woman who feels caught between indulging in tradition (she's a compulsive shopper in Chinatown markets) and selling out to the fast-paced money game of her worldly brother. Chin's themes are compelling, but her pace and language are less so - slow, unmelodious, more akin to script direction than to storytelling. Still, in page-long vignettes before each tale, this first-timer displays her true potential, evoking scenes in a sensitively visual language. (Kirkus Reviews)