Last summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China.Last summer I had the wonderful chance to hear Deanna Fei read from her debut novel A Thread of Sky, about Chinese American women traveling to China.
This summer, I came across Ann Mah's Kitchen Chinese.
Something interesting: Both Fei and Mah published their respective novels in 2010 and wrote as they were living in Beijing. Yet Fei's is a contemporary fiction offering, while Mah's is straight-up chic lit. After several pages of cliches and cheesy writing that made it feel like CHEETAH GIRLS 2/EAT PRAY LOVE Asian-American style, I decided to go with the flow.
AND GOT HOOKEDDDDD
I loved how the narrative was arranged by region/food and included Taiwan and Hong Kong. I GOT SO HUNGRY WITH THE FOOD DESCRIPTIONS! And thought that Jeff Zhu the Mandopop star and love interest was hilarious. I enjoyed being immersed in the Beijing expat community. (If anybody is interested in that, Kaiser Kuo (Ich in Ein Beijinger), like Ann Mah, worked at the expat magazine the Beijinger!) It was super fascinating to have that world fleshed out in fiction, and despite the frame of cliches, it was creative and entertaining.
It also made me happy to be able to identify with many of Isabelle's experiences as an ABC in China; like Iz, I will never forget how accomplished and cool I felt when the taxi driver didn't ask, "Where are you from?"/"Ni shi na guo ren?" for the first time!
Sometimes we all need to read a cutesy, alternately lame and funny romantic comedy, and if you are in the mood for one of those (along with some Chinese food and healthy culture clash), then I would definitely recommend KITCHEN CHINESE. It made me smile a lot.
Notes: There were like 2 pinyin errors and some other minor typos--step it up, HarperCollins!
Many of the opening chapters quoted from Swallowing Clouds by A. Zee, which I now also want to find~...more