Just after receiving her US citizenship as a girl, Xuan Juliana Wang and her family went to see Carl's Jr. "I remember the sandwich I ate," he recently said by phone from his home in Los Angeles. "I remember the euphoria of how he felt."
He also remembers when the corner of his Chinese passport was cut and he was asked to choose a name in English. She remembers taking her mother to the airport years earlier in China, where she lived until Wang met with her parents in Los Angeles when she was 7 years old.
"I only remember these things, they seem so loaded and complicated," Wang says, searching for the right words.
She recounts much of her dual experience between China and the United States in these vivid fragments of memory, wrapped in emotional complexity. This sense of the ineffable, but painfully tender courses, along Wang's profound collection of short stories, "Home Remedies" (Hogarth, 240 pages).
In Wang's stories, the disorientation of migration and movement manifests itself both loudly and silently in the life of a diverse collection of Chinese characters, from the misfit, violent and rich millennials to the accidental fashion stars.
But Wang renounces the typical outlines of the "immigrant" perspectives: his stories are less about the classic difficulties of the immigrants or the manifest trauma. Instead, they often get angry with feelings of deep alienation: the distance between members of a newly immigrated family on "Mott Street in July," misguided youngsters struggling to find themselves in a shifting Beijing in "Days of being soft" (a nod of approval for "Days of Being Wild", Hong Kong movie by Wong Kar-Wai, unrequited love in "Vaulting the Sea".
His writing does not feel political either. Its cultural specificity is driven by something more personal (the collection is divided into three sections, love, family, and time and space, which trace their own concerns in life during the last decade of the writing of the book) and also perhaps primordial and instinctive. "I think with all these stories, there is a pain that I'm trying to reach and that I feel personally," he says.
Wang's writing began with those whose experience of dislocation is not expressed in the literature.
"When we first emigrated, my mother and her best friend rented a house together," Wang recalls. "So there are two families living in a house, and it became a kind of makeshift shelter for anyone we knew was trying to emigrate. to".
Some would stay for a month, come as doctors and become workers in the noodle shops. For a young Wang, they became aunts and uncles.
"I just pity a lot about how they felt and what they wanted to move, to give up everything and live here," says Wang. "My first stories were about these people that I love, that I know. I'm not trying to write about immigrants. These are just the people around me. I felt I had to tell their story so they would not disappear. "
In "Remedios caseros", their lens remains focused on these individuals, although their lives are translated less as part of the "immigrant experience" than in the deepest, universally human. "Fuerdai to the Max," for example, a piece about super-rich Chinese teenagers sent to school in the United States was the way Wang responded to the ways he has heard about such real-life people.
"They are talking about them as if they were not human, they are some other kind of people who can not understand," she says. "I feel that what I am trying to do with these stories is to say," No, these are people, they are human You can understand them, you can know where they come from, you can know what makes them work. worries, about what they dream about ".
Xuan Juliana Wang: 7:30 pm. Thursday, May 16 Free. The Bindery, 1727 Haight, S.F. www.booksmith.com
Additional books events
Namwali Serpell: The author of San Francisco talks about her first novel, "The Old Drift." 7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 Free. City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. www.citylights.com
Max Porter: The author talks about his new novel, "Lanny". 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21. Free. City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. www.citylights.com