The BookBrowse Review

Published June 22, 2022

ISSN: 1930-0018

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Book Jacket

Self-Portrait with Ghost
Short Stories
by Meng Jin
5 Jul 2022
224 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Short Stories
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From the acclaimed author of Little Gods, whose "gift merges science, politics and art: the kind of audacity our world needs now" (Gina Apostol), comes an immersive and electrifying story collection that explores self-construction, female resilience, and migrations both literal and transformative.

Meng Jin's critically acclaimed debut novel, Little Gods, was praised as "spectacular and emotionally polyphonic (Omar El-Akkad, BookPage), "powerful" (Washington Post), and "meticulously observed, daringly imagined" (Claire Messud). Now Jin turns her considerable talents to short fiction, in ten thematically linked stories.

Written during the turbulent years of the Trump administration and the first year of the pandemic, these stories explore intimacy and isolation, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the repercussions of past mistakes, fraying relationships and surprising moments of connection. Moving between San Francisco and China, and from unsparing realism to genre-bending delight, Self-Portrait with Ghost considers what it means to live in an age of heightened self-consciousness, seemingly endless access to knowledge, and little actual power.

Page-turning, thought-provoking, and wholly unique, Self-Portrait with Ghost further establishes Meng Jin as a writer who "reminds us that possible explanations in our universe are as varied as the beings who populate it" (Paris Review).

"[A] provocative magical realist collection in which women fall in love, grieve, and figure out what to make of their lives amid constant changes...Throughout, there is beauty, wit, and pathos. This mystifying collection is a testament to Jin's talent and versatility." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Deftly imaginative and brilliantly interrogative." - Booklist (starred review)

"Alluring, mysterious, and crackling with sly intelligence. In stories that move from San Francisco to urban China to a city where people walk through walls, Self-Portrait with Ghost stares into the churning inner lives of women who are complex, contradictory, and always fascinating. You will be mesmerized." - C Pam Zhang, author of How Much of These Hills is Gold

"Self-Portrait with Ghost is both haunted and haunting, populated with indelible characters who seem to live and breathe. And haunting, in that each of these stories casts a spell over ordinary life. Meng Jin writes with perception, precision, and humor, drawing from a well deep with desire — for love, for experience, for life itself. I will read anything she writes." - Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye Vitamin

Meng Jin is the author of the novel Little Gods. She is a Kundiman fellow, a David TK Wong fellow, a Steinbeck fellow, and indebted to many institutions, granting bodies, and kind humans for their support. Her writing has appeared in some journals and magazines, and the Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is a visiting lecturer in creative writing at Harvard University. Her second book, Self-Portrait with Ghost, was released by Mariner Books in 2022. She is writing a fake memoir, for which she received a 2021 Creative Capital Award.

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