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Hunger: A Novella and Stories

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  709 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
The novella and five stories that make up this collection reveal the lives of immigrant families haunted by lost loves: a ghost seduces a young girl into a flooded river; a mother commands a daughter to avenge her father’s death; and in the title novella, a woman speaks from beyond the grave about her tragic marriage to an exiled musician whose own disappointments nearly d ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2000)
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Felice Picano
Sep 18, 2015 Felice Picano rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book a decade or so before, when I met the author at some conference or literary festival or other and we bonded over growing up immigrant's children in the outer New York City boroughs. I recently found the book again and began with the stories, liking them all over again, especially the most memorable, final one,"Pippa's Story." This time however, I also got into the title "novella." I'm using quotes around that, because by length it is a novella, but it is as deep, and full, and r ...more
Book Concierge
Apr 25, 2010 Book Concierge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a Novella plus short stories about the immigrant’s hunger for acceptance, for love, for lost tradition, and how one parent’s desire for fulfillment can tear a family apart. Excellent.

The title story is told by the wife, Min, an immigrant from Taiwan. She is working as the hostess in a Chinese restaurant when she meets her husband Tian, a violin student and teacher at the local music conservatory. They marry and set up house in a small apartment in Brooklyn. But Min can never get over her
...more
Alyson Hagy
Oct 05, 2013 Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title novella is dynamite, one of the best I've read in a very long time. Chang's sense of character is deft and deep, and the shadows gather in "Hunger" in a powerful and unforgettable way. Each of the remaining stories is sure-footed. Chang writes very well. She's clear-eyed and unafraid of examining the painful bonds we often wrap around ourselves in the name of family. A strong collection.
Sharon
Oct 11, 2014 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a Chinese-American girl, I recognized many of the themes in Hunger as relevant and very real. Many of them made me cry - the fading love found in old marriages, the the disappearance of culture in the second generation, language barriers between parents and children, a loss of contact with relatives overseas, shattered hopes, and the notion of failing the American Dream, . I loved the colors and temperatures used throughout the first and main story, and how they are used to depict anything fr ...more
Lindsay
When I first read this book for grad school, I didn't give it much of a chance and, unsurprisingly, I didn't like it. What a difference a few years can make, because I found it a far richer collection of stories this time. A novella and several short stories focus on Chinese families and the lives they lead--or mostly try to escape. There's a lot about family and the chains that bind, and how just because you might be able to physically escape your history, it doesn't mean the history goes away. ...more
Emily
Jul 13, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The way each story unfolded was amazing, even the littlest details were important. Not much was said in terms of dialogue, but each action counted. I felt it rather than read it.

Update (2 weeks later): I keep thinking about this book. It's connected to me somehow, in different ways. My boyfriend is a violinist, although I love hearing him play (unlike in "Hunger") and he's very loving and open, albeit stubborn (as musicians are). So for me, different parts of the story about practicing and the p
...more
Cecily
Short stories by a Chinese American, each exploring displacement and distance from Chinese culture. Poignant.
Alyssa
May 25, 2015 Alyssa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title novella is so fabulous I was a bit disappointed when it ended and I was being guided through the lives of other characters. That being said, the stories that follow poignantly capture the challenges faced by those constantly pulled between two cultures, either Chinese and American or old and new. Chang continually demonstrates her ability to develop very complex characters in very few words.

Only complaint comes in the form of the author's either lack of explanation or lack of attentio
...more
sdw
Feb 06, 2008 sdw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of language
Recommended to sdw by: Corinne Ball
Shelves: notforschool, fiction
The author’s poetic mastery of language alone makes this work worth reading. She turns words and phrases into scents, smells, and shapes. A critic of Marilynne Robinson once wrote that you wanted to read her work slower and slower because of the beauty of her language. Hunger is the same way. The language in Hunger is more sparse and more crisp than any of Robinson’s works. The author’s style is my favorite thing about this book.

The format of the book appears to be one novella (the best work i
...more
Elaine
Jul 17, 2014 Elaine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written book that gives insight into the complex lives first generation Chinese immigrants and their children. The professional violinist who works in a Chinatown restaurant and pins all his hopes on his talented daughter. The daughter who resents her chemist father trying to adapt to his white colleague's football-watching and other American habits. Each generation infuriating the other -- and the reader constantly switching allegiances. The title novella dragged at times, but each ...more
Kristin Traylor
The writing is very beautiful, but there is such a feeling of immovability with the characters. They hold onto anger or rage or grief or ambition for years, even lifetimes, without the breakthroughs that I would expect to come through interactions with others. Maybe this is the Chinese immigrant life - an intensity of purpose which is held onto despite the pain it brings.
Corinne
Jan 24, 2008 Corinne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china, immigration
Reading this directly after A free life was absolutely stunning. While Ha Jin's characters cope with assimilation by becoming quietly disillusioned, Chang's characters become almost violent with their regret. I almost wish I read Chang's book first; it may have added more towards the sympathy I felt for Nan (in A free life) and taken away some of the frustration I felt as he wondered through the novel.

Back to Hunger. Each story is carefully positioned in the collection, building a picture of the
...more
MariaElena Gutierrez
What i thought about the book was it was interesting to read. In the book, the dad had temper issues and got voilent very easily. The mom and daughters were very scared of him and did what ever to try to not get him angry. In one point in the story, the dad got mad at the mom and daughter in a restaurant and was grasping on to the daughters arm very tight, not letting her go. This made the book interesting to read becuase it made the reader very enthusiastic and wanting to keep on reading. In h ...more
Maria
Nov 23, 2015 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Passages:

“Haven't we all, as time continues, found that we must be kind to ourselves and listen to our thoughts, because fewer and fewer of those remain who know what is most real to us?”

“It's because of the way you are. It's why you're happy reading novels. You're only comfortable with a piece of the world that you can hold in your hand.”

p135: “They forgot what they could no longer bear to hope for.”

p151: “He had no one to ask - no friends, no parents - no one who could have understood the lan
...more
Jana
Jan 19, 2009 Jana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chang's writing is comfortable and easy, like sitting down with a relative for a long chat, in this case a long chat about what it was like to grow up in New York as an immigrant. The unsuccessful struggle of Min's husband Tian to fight against unspoken racism to become more than a waiter. The struggle for Min to want her daughters to succeed in this English-speaking world without losing her own ability to understand them. The struggle of finding a way to call anyplace "home." I savored every pa ...more
Jodie
Mar 27, 2015 Jodie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book's concept was interesting, I felt that the story lines seemed to drag a bit. Overall I enjoyed the book, but it is not one I would revisit.
Donnell
Oct 07, 2013 Donnell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
A novella and few short stories, all based on different immigrants from China, as they settle in America. Their struggles with acceptance of American values and culture, while sadly feeling their own slip away, but all with a "hunger" for more or better for future generations.

What affected me most is how one can easily substitute the Chinese refugees in these stories with any immigrant that came to America during the last century be it Irish, Polish, Vietnamese, or Iraqi. Their struggles with c
...more
Martha
The writing convincingly dragged the reader through the pain and turmoil of this singularly depressing novella.
Frances
Jan 28, 2016 Frances rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning, mystical, aching. (Fuck the stupid ass confused comments scribbled in my used copy)
Gretchen
Apr 17, 2014 Gretchen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Haunting, days later I'm still thinking about these stories.
Cole
The themes of family alienation within this book often hit far too close to home for me personally. This book was well-written, intriguing, and an interesting study into American-Chinese culture, but it is not what I would necessarily pick up for a recreational read. Chang's writing is superb and I cannot wait to hear her in the round-table discussion at Stanford to hear more about her thought-process behing writing the novella and short stories. Of all of the stories I found the final one the m ...more
Rubi
Mar 31, 2009 Rubi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am only rating this 5 because of the very first story in the book, the self-titled Hunger. I had to stop reading it halfway through because a) it was making me cry; b) it was so beautiful and moving I wanted to prolong my enjoyment of reading it. That sounds sappy but it's true. Her language is so precise, and her portrayal of the silent love and bitterness that binds families together is remarkable. Eventually, I had to finish reading it, but that hasn't stopped me from re-reading that story ...more
Kima
Jan 22, 2016 Kima rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous and brief.
Sunni
Oct 20, 2014 Sunni rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was okay.
b bb bbbb bbbbbbbb
Disliked: The personalities and character types get recycled too much in the additional short stories in the back. Dads are all intense, controlling and talented with crushed ambitions, while moms are timid and subservient. The children are brilliant, remote and on their way to ivy-league schools.I almost recommend skipping the stories at the end and just stopping after you have finished Hunger.. Tremendously sad yet very pleasant, there is a delicate clarity and ease in the story-telling.
Susan
Jul 22, 2013 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose Hunger naively hoping to learn about the Chinese immigrant experience in the United States, but in their searing intensity Chang's stories tell one not many stories, about the conflict between love and independence. Often there are two daughters, one a rebel and the other who learns to live within the strictures and expectations of her Chinese family. The title story is especially vivid in its descriptions of the tyranny required to learn and master classical violin technique.
stacy
Nov 02, 2012 stacy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i loved the novella more than the short stories. but really liked it overall.

also, i love this from inside jacket: "Again and again, Chang asks the question: Is ordinary love not a kind of burden, stifling and terrifying in the choices and responsibilities it forces on us? And yet we yearn for it, suffer for it, define ourselves by our experience of it, cannot live without it."

i finished in one sitting!

thank you, j. chen.
Suzanne
Jan 29, 2012 Suzanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are haunting stories of the loss and pain felt by Chinese immigrants, and how that translates to their children. The title novella deals with an immigrants aching love for her family, and the harshness of assimilation that causes her to lose all family ties. These stories are like a punch in the stomach, and while very mood evoking, I cant help but hope that the author, an Appleton, Wi, native, has had a better life experience.
Walter
Jul 07, 2007 Walter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: short-stories
Wonderful stories, especially those about ghosts (social ghosts, that is), like "The Unforgetting" and "Pipa's Story." Lan Samantha Chang composes wonderful lines throughout, such as "As I looked at my daughter's face, I began to understand that to love another was to be a custodian of that person's decline -- to know this fate, hold onto it, and live" (p. 57). I've got to get a hold of her novel Inheritance.
Jenifer
This is a collection of short stories about asian americans. I liked the writting. She was clear in her thoughts and I could understand a culture that I am not familiar with. After finishing this book, I felt somewhat unsatisfied and sad. I wonder if asian americans, especially those who have immigrated to America have difficulty with attatchments to family members. Is it a cultural thing? The subject was difficult to enjoy.
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Lan Samantha Chang (張嵐; pinyin: Zhāng Lán), born 1965, is an American writer of novels and short stories. She is Professor of English at the University of Iowa and Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Samantha Chang was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, the daughter of Chinese parents who survived the World War II Japanese occupation of China and later emigrated to the United States. Chang has receiv
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“Haven't we all, as time continues, found that we must be kind to ourselves and listen to our thoughts, because fewer and fewer of those remain who know what is most real to us?” 1 likes
“What do you mean by yuanfen?"
She thought for a minute and replied, "It means: that apportionment of love which is destined for you in this world.”
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