Two short stories by Charles Yu and Alyssa Wong

I recently read a couple of short stories by Asian American writers and thought I'd link them here. Every few years, I wonder about all the short stories, poems, and essays that get published in various literary magazines by Asian American writers. Does the corpus of this literature look different from what appears in book form? Would our conception of the major themes in Asian American literature change signficantly if we drew different frames around what we think of as published literature? What about if we incorporate other types of storytelling or narrative, via new or old technologies like podcasts, stand up comedy routines, and more?

The two stories I read were Charles Yu's "Fable" in the New Yorker and Alyssa Wong's "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" in Nightmare. Both stories are in the realm of speculative/fantasy fiction, and both function on an allegorical register for how we conceive of people's every day life. Yu's story centers on a man trying to make sense of his life's trajectory (choosing a career, finding a wife, having a child to build a family, etc.), and Wong's story considers how a daughter learned to live and relate to others via what her mothers taught and showed her through her actions.


Illustration by Tom Gauld.

There are also a couple of great extras for Yu's story at the New Yorker: a brief interview on therapy and storytelling and an audio recording of Yu's reading of the story. "Fable" is like some of Yu's other fiction in its metacommentary on its own genre and on the way the narrative perspective often breaks the fourth wall of telling a story. There's also an interesting juxtaposition of narrative registers--the fairy tale narrative and a more contemporary narrative of the working man's ennui.


Illustration by Plunderpuss.

I found out about Wong's story because it won this year's Nebula Award for short story. And I found out about the award through another article about how women swept the awards this year--something especially significant in light of some of the crazy stuff happening in the sci-fi/fantasy world with the other major prize, the Hugo Award. I'm really excited to have found out about Alyssa Wong and will eagerly look up her other writing. "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" does something really interesting with Asian American experiences like feeling different from other Americans because of what you eat and creates a fantastical story with monstrous characters that nevertheless plumb the complexities of familial and social relationships that are significant to Asian Americans.
  • Current Mood: hopeful hopeful
really excited to hear about a new writer! hope a full publication comes out ASAP =)... thanks for the insights!