A stunning depiction of the Chinese-American experience and a deeply affecting novel about fathers and sons from the author of the prizewinning story collection Pangs of Love.
"Louie is elegant, funny, a touch spooky, and he has as fine a hair-trigger control of alienation and absurdity as any of the best of his generation."--Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Sterling Lung grew up in the back of his parent's laundry dreaming about being a real American while speaking Chinese to his mother, English to his friends, and very little to the father he seemed always to disappoint. Now twenty-six and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Sterling cooks French food for the WASP ladies of a private club in Connecticut and conducts an arm's-length affair with an old Swarthmore classmate, a Jewish-American Princess from New Canaan, thereby frustrating his father's dream of a doctor son and his mother's scheme for a Chinese bride. For Sterling's parents, the barbarians are not coming: they are here now.
In a tale that alternates between black comedy and out-and-out slapstick, between the pain of a son alienated from his father and a father an alien in his son's native land, The Barbarians Are Coming reveals the deep psychic wounds each man has suffered even as it ultimately leads to a reconciliation that is as moving as it is necessary. Here is a tale of the immigrant experience--indeed, of the American experience: of the deracination of the second generation and the wrenching losses of the first.
From Chapter 1
Feast or famine. My plate is suddenly full. One day my Bliss is in Iowa, studying dentistry, gazing at the gums and decay of hog farmers and their kin. She claims she can eyeball a patient's teeth and see through to what's rotten. And now she's coming home for a quick visit, a thousand miles, without even the excuse of a national holiday or school calendar break. "Don't you have teeth to clean?" I asked hopefully when she called with the news. At my insistence we use long-distance sparingly, only when something truly important comes up. Since I'm still up in the air about our future as a couple, why throw away good money until I'm sure about what I'm doing: it's the difference between carnations for her birthday and a cashmere sweater. I have us writing postcards back and forth. Short and sweet, public enough so things can never get too involved or serious. A picture's worth a thousand words.
Here's the rest of the picture: I ...
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Wry humor, lively dialogue, and a compassionate take on being a single woman under a traditional mother's matchmaking thumb enliven this insightful debut.
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