Disorientation: A Novel (Hardcover)
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NAMED A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2022 BY BUZZFEED * ELECTRIC LIT * GOODREADS * NYLON * BUSTLE * GOOD HOUSEKEEPING * AND MORE!
A Taiwanese American woman’s coming-of-consciousness ignites eye-opening revelations and chaos on a college campus in this outrageously hilarious and startlingly tender debut novel
“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, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
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. But after four years of grueling research, she has nothing but anxiety and stomach pain to show for her efforts. 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 OTC drug hallucinations, to book burnings and a movement that stinks of “Yellow Peril” propaganda.
In the aftermath, nothing looks quite the same to Ingrid—including her gentle and doting fiancé, Stephen Greene. When he embarks on a book tour with the “super kawaii” Japanese author he’s translated, doubts and insecurities creep in. At the same time, she finds herself drawn to the cool and aloof Alex Kim (even though she swears he’s not her type). 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.
For readers of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, this uproarious and bighearted satire is a blistering send-up of white supremacy in academia and a profound reckoning of individual complicity and unspoken rage. In this electrifying debut novel from a provocative new voice, Chou asks who gets to tell our stories—and how the story changes when we finally tell it ourselves.
About the Author
Elaine Hsieh Chou is a Taiwanese American writer from California. A 2017 Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellow at NYU and a 2021 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow, her short fiction appears in Black Warrior Review, Guernica, Tin House Online, and Ploughshares. Disorientation is her first novel.
“Chou effectively skewers a world that takes itself all too seriously . . . This will charm a wide set of readers, not just those pursuing PhDs.” —Publishers Weekly
“A fresh, hilarious and thoughtful satire that'll make you think about cultural identity in a whole new way.” —Good Housekeeping, The 15 Best and Most-Anticipated Books of 2022
“Disorientation is an irreverent campus satire that skewers white sclerotic academia, creepy Asian fetishists and twee boba liberalism, but lastly and most importantly, it’s a satire, inspired by recent controversies, about an orientalist tradition and its manifestations today. Helmed by a memorable screwball protagonist, the novel is both a joyous and sharply-drawn caper.” —Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings
“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 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
“Disorientation is the funniest novel I’ve read all year . . . This uproarious tale of a young woman’s quest to uncover the truth about the 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.”—Aravind Adiga, author of The White Tiger