In the Face of Death We Are Equal (The Pride List)

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A Year in Reading: K-Ming Chang

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This year began with re-reading many of the book series that I was obsessed with in middle school, specifically books from Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman run, as well as The New 52 Wonder Woman series by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, and Tony Akins, which I am always trying to convince my friends to read. As a child, I was obsessed with mythologies of all kinds, and given that this was the year that my novel was released – a book about mythology and migration and family – it made sense to revisit the myths that formed me. I also realized that my obsession with Wonder Woman’s origin story – she was formed from clay by her mother and raised on an island inhabited entirely by women – made a lot of sense for a girl always imagining a queer and matriarchal fantasy world.

Revisiting what I’ve read this year also helped me realize how much I love to read works in translation – my favorites this year include In the Face of Death We Are Equal by Mu Cao, translated by Scott E. Myer, which is gay and strange and full of despair and desire and survival, as well as Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo, which Guo rewrote in English. It’s a book I want to wander around with. I’ve also been haunted by Echo on the Bay and Lion Cross Point by Masatsugu Ono, both translated by Angus Turvill – they are slim and yet expansive in their scope, full of splintered histories both personal and collective. It was also the first time I’d read a work by a Japanese author who wrote about Japan’s colonial past/present in a way that felt deeply central to daily life and psyche, portraying the consequences of complicity and the ghosts that are still alive. And speaking of hauntings, I will never forget the experience of reading The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala, translated by Anna Kushner: this book is a chorus, a full-throated song, brutal and beautiful, and I am so deeply inspired and thrilled by its collective voices and unrestrained language.

I’ve also read more short story collections this year, many of which became some of my favorite books of all time: Black Jesus and Other Superheroes by Venita Blackburn, Zigzagger by Manuel Muñoz, and When the World Wounds by Kiini Ibura Salaam. All three of these collections can change your life in two pages or less – and they all create new possibilities for what a story can look like and move like. They remind me that writing is an act of transformation. I also fell in love with Dahlia Season by Myriam Gurba, a queer and wild gut-punch of a collection that I will return to again and again.

The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy, a book that feels like it’s lodged forever in my body, Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz, Houses by Nikki Wallschlaeger, Three Brothers: Memories of My Family by Yan Lianke translated by Carlos Rojas (I will never forget the hilarious and heartbreaking story of how Yan’s mother used the only copy of his first novel as firewood), and Storyteller by Leslie Marmon Silko, which stunned me with its breadth and range, its collage of poetry, prose, oral history, photography, mythology – she writes with incredible care. The books I’m currently reading are Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan, translated by Janet Hong, and The Fallen by Carlos Manuel Alvarez, translated by Frank Wynne – I just finished Bluebeard’s First Wife by Ha Seong-nan, and I had to put the book down (and sometimes fling it at something, though not too hard since it’s a library book) because I was so troubled by the stories in the best way possible. It made me want to destroy the world and imagine it anew. 

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