Elaine Hsieh Chou

21 July 2022
416 pages


'The funniest novel I’ve read all year' – Aravind Adiga, author of The White Tiger

Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou is a bighearted satire – alive with sharp edges, immense warmth, and a cast of unforgettable characters – that asks: who gets to tell our stories? And how does the story change when we finally tell it ourselves?

Twenty-nine-year-old PhD student Ingrid Yang is desperate to finish her dissertation on the late canonical poet Xiao-Wen Chou and never read about ‘Chinese-y’ things. When she accidentally stumbles upon a strange and curious note in the Chou archives, she convinces herself it’s her ticket out of academic hell.

But Ingrid’s in much deeper than she thinks. Her clumsy exploits to unravel the note’s message lead to an explosive discovery, one that upends her entire life and the lives of those around her. With her trusty friend Eunice Kim by her side and her rival Vivian Vo hot on her tail, together they set off a roller coaster of mishaps and misadventures, from campus protests and over-the-counter drug hallucinations, to book burnings and a movement that stinks of Yellow Peril propaganda. In the aftermath, nothing looks the same, including her gentle and doting fiancé . . .

As the events Ingrid instigated keep spiraling, she’ll have to confront her sticky relationship to white men and white institutions – and, most of all, herself.

The funniest, most poignant novel of the year
Funny, fearless . . . acutely inspects the power of the white gaze, academic imperialism, peer rivalry and self-hate
A rollicking, whip-smart ride through the hallowed halls of academia