Christina Chiu's sophomore novel is a sharp, thought-provoking, and unabashed look at sexuality, fashion, and power dynamics, and how race and gender intersect with both. It follows Amy Wong, an aspiring fashion designer in New York. Chiu begins the story in Amy's childhood and jumps ahead through time from one formative event to the next, and we're able to see how early traumas — parental abandonments, sexual assault — follow her for years, informing her approach to all future relationships and her personal attachments (or avoidance).
Sex, beauty, and race play big roles in Amy's story — from the beginning, we understand she's exceptionally beautiful from the reactions of men she encounters, but we also see how that beauty, especially as an Asian woman, can both empower and diminish her. Early on, it separates her from herself, as men treat her body as something they're entitled to, projecting their own desires and assumptions onto it. As she gets older, exploring her sexuality and specifically domination, she begins to reclaim some of that power, but it often feels hollow.
When she falls in love with and marries an older man – a huge figure in the fashion world, reluctant to use his sway to encourage Amy's own career — she grapples with her identity and ambitions. She struggles with motherhood and the expectations around it; she wonders about what she's sacrificed. Most significantly, she starts to challenge a lifetime of internalized judgments from everyone else, and works to truly understand who she is and what she's capable of. Get your copy now. —Arianna Rebolini
Texting with our favorite writers 📲
This week, we're chatting with Stephanie Danler about Stray, her new memoir about growing up as a child of two addicts, and grappling with the ways in which the experience followed her into adulthood.