An uproarious and 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 again. 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, Stephen Greene . . . 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.
Chou’s pen is a scalpel. Disorientation addresses the private absurdities the soul must endure to get free, from tokenism, the quiet exploitation of well-meaning institutions, and the bondage that is self-imposed. Chou does it with wit and verve, and no one is spared.
Raven Leilani, author of Luster
Disorientation is the funniest novel I’ve read all year . . . This uproarious tale of a young woman’s quest to uncover the truth about world’s most famous Chinese American poet is packed full of sly truths about race, love, and life in general—all of which you’re going to miss, because you’ll be laughing so hard.
Disorientation is a multivalent pleasure, a deeply original debut novel that reinvents the campus novel satire as an Asian American literary studies whodunnit, in which the murder victim might be your idea of yourself—no matter how you identify. I often held my breath until I laughed and I wouldn't dare compare it or Chou to anyone writing now. Wickedly funny and knowing, Chou’s dagger wit is sure-eyed, intent on what feels like a decolonization of her protagonist, if not the reader, that just might set her free.
Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel