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A sly debut story collection that conjures the experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City—for readers of Zadie Smith, Helen Oyeyemi, and Junot Díaz
Winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • NPR • O: The Oprah Magazine • The Guardian • Esquire • New York • BuzzFeed
A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.
Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.
Praise for Sour Heart
“[Jenny Zhang’s] coming-of-age tales are coarse and funny, sweet and sour, told in language that’s rough-hewn yet pulsating with energy.”—USA Today
“One of the knockout fiction debuts of the year.”—New York
“Compelling writing about what it means to be a teenager . . . It’s brilliant, it’s dark, but it’s also humorous and filled with love.”—Isaac Fitzgerald, Today
“[A] combustible collection . . . in a class of its own.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Gorgeous and grotesque . . . [a] tremendous debut.”—Slate