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September 29, 2020
Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterwards, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth–and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.
Man, what a ride. This is more myth than reality, more poetry than prose. It certainly packs a punch, but I’m still not entirely sure what it all means. It’s one of the weirdest books I’ve read this year, but there’s no doubt it made me feel something. Very strange and powerful at the same time. You need to go into this one with zero expectations, but you just might enjoy it.
Thanks to One World and Net Galley for the ARC.