As part of my relief from school and just to get my system re-charged, I’ve been catching up on books I’ve been meaning to read. First up on my list for this summer has been Amy Tan’s latest novel, Saving Fish From Drowning. I’ve always appreciated Tan simply based on the kind of exposure she has given other American writers of Asian descent, especially through the commercial success of her creative publications. Saving Fish From Drowning is especially interesting in terms of Tan’s publication history because it is the one novel to seriously deviate from the strong feminist and Chinese transnational topographies that has been a hallmark of her work. This statement isn’t to say that Saving Fish From Drowning completely deviates, as the protagonist and narrator, Bibi Chen, is one who herself has had to face a very problematic relationship to her Chinese stepmother. Nevertheless, Bibi deigns not to situate her own experiences per se, as the ones faced by a group of tourists who travel to Burma. I do not want to give away too much about the story, except to say that Bibi is a very winning and funny protagonist, so much so that I tended to care more about her narration and her character more than any of the characters she tells us about. Part of the perilousness of this novel is that it is so multifocal; it is a picaresque-type work, it is a satire, it is a comic novel, it is partly social realist, and it certainly is political. The novel clocks in at over 400 pages and because it is difficult to sustain narrative dynamism as Bibi tells us the various adventures of this group of tourists, we begin to lose our ways at times. Only toward the end, where it is clear there is an extensive treatise and discourse concerning media representations, does the novel bring its more disparate strands back together.
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