Excerpt from Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Win Me Something

by Kyle Lucia Wu

Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu X
Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu
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    Nov 2021, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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Print Excerpt


When I'd spoken to Nathalie on the phone, I'd imagined her imposing and powerful, five foot ten in a pinstriped suit with her hair french-twisted. But in reality, she was around my height, five foot three, and dressed like she was going to spin class: black leggings and a matching white exercise-tank-warm-up-jacket set, her glossy brown hair tied in a low ponytail. I hadn't expected her to be so pretty, with big features—wide blue eyes, full lips—and poreless skin. Her eyebrows made two perfect arches, the kind I could never wrangle mine into. I felt immediately self-conscious, my cheap cardigan trying too hard, the primary colors of my outfit like a kindergarten teacher.

"Come on in," she said, "and please take your shoes off at the door." I crouched down to take off my sandals, fumbling with the buckles. "Did you have any trouble getting here—where do you live again? How long was the commute?"

I answered the questions—Brooklyn, Crown Heights, forty minutes—wondering if this was part of the interview. Was it better if I lived closer? But how could I afford to? She led me to sit on the couch.

"Bijou isn't home from cooking camp. I've spoken to several people on the phone this week, so forgive me if I'm repeating myself, but I'll tell you a bit about her?" I began to agree, but the start of my yes dissolved into her next sentence.

"She's about to begin fourth grade. She's so busy and brilliant—ballet, violin, Mandarin, and infatuated with cooking, hence the camp. My husband, Gabe, and I work, as I told you, but I work from home often. Her school is in Soho, two stops away on the 1, and her activities are downtown—Soho or West Village." I thought of what my roommate, Lucy, had said when I asked what she thought the Adriens would be like. "The kind of people who don't ride the subway," she'd said, and I'd nodded, thinking she knew.

"How long have you lived in New York again?" Nathalie asked.

"Almost three years," I said. "And I used to work in the West Village. I'm—comfortable getting around." I hoped she wouldn't ask what my job in the West Village was, and then I'd have to name the sticky bar I'd served picklebacks at.

"So, you've worked for the Ericksons before. I used to work with Marie, years and years ago. She's so lovely. Can you tell me a bit about what that routine was like?"

Lucy used to work for the Ericksons and had sent me in her place one night. I was surprised that they didn't seem to care that I was new. They'd shown me what to microwave for dinner and left me to watch James and the Giant Peach. They told me the kids would ask me to lie in their bedroom while they fell asleep in bunk beds, and it felt vaguely illicit, like I should have gone through a background check before watching them slip to sleep. When their parents got home, they gave me eighty dollars for four hours and waved me off cheerily. Lucy eventually relinquished the job to me, and I accepted eagerly—who wouldn't? It was so easy, I could have cried for each morning at the coffee shop when twelve customers in a row told me the boiling water was too hot.

"Sure. They have two kids. So sometimes I'd pick them up from school, or from after-school, and take them home, and ..." I tried to think of a way to elongate the routine. I'd actually picked them up from school only twice—most of the time I'd shown up at their apartment as their parents headed out the door. "We'd get on the subway from the East Village, and go back to Park Slope, where they lived, and once home, I'd—fix dinner ..." I thought of the frozen fish sticks I'd watched spin in the microwave, how I'd squeezed ketchup into a little dish on the counter. "And then I'd help them with their homework, or we'd color—they loved art, coloring books, things like that." She looked at me. "I took them to buy a watercolor set once. And you know, I'd make sure they were in bed by a certain time."

Excerpted from Win Me Something by Kyle Lucia Wu. Published with permission from Tin House. Copyright (c) 2021 by Kyle Lucia Wu.

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