Thank you to Random House for this Advance Review Copy of Sour Heart. Sour Heart will be published on August first. Pre-order now.
Goodreads summary (because Goodreads is admittedly better at summaries than I am):
Centered on a community of immigrants who have traded their endangered lives as artists in China and Taiwan for the constant struggle of life at the poverty line in 1990s New York City, Zhang’s exhilarating collection examines the many ways that family and history can weigh us down and also lift us up. From the young woman coming to terms with her grandmother’s role in the Cultural Revolution to the daughter struggling to understand where her family ends and she begins, to the girl discovering the power of her body to inspire and destroy, these seven vibrant stories illuminate the complex and messy inner lives of girls struggling to define themselves. Fueled by Zhang’s singular voice and sly humor, this collection introduces Zhang as a bright and devastating force in literary fiction.
To be honest, I requested an ARC of Sour Heart because I loved the cover (hey, it’s a great cover!). But the content on the pages is just a great as the art on the cover. Jenny Zhang is already known for her poetry, and she has published two books of poetry entitled “Dear Jenny, We are All Find” and “HAGS”. She is also a regular contributor at Rookie Mag. Sour Heart is her first collection of short stories, and it is also the first acquisition of the Lenny imprint at Random House.
Sour Heart is a compilation of short stories about the daughters of Chinese immigrants to the US. It deals with issues of poverty, violence, cultural differences, and family. The stories called to mind collections like “Drown” by Junot Diaz and short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri.
All of the narrators in Sour Heart are young girls, ranging in age from 8 to 22. I loved how raw and real their emotions and reactions were. Many of the stories are connected through relationships between the narrators and other characters. Some are heartbreaking, some heartwarming, and some hilarious. Settings move back and forth between New York and Shanghai, as characters struggle to maintain connections with the families they left behind. Parents and ancestors recall their lives during the cultural revolution in China, and both the violence and strange sort of freedom they found. The parents of one of the narrators recall how they had pursued careers in film and art in China, yet had to destroy their work and flee to America during the revolution.
What I liked most about Sour Heart was the unique voice of all of the young narrators. Jenny Zhang truly and accurately captured the inner thoughts and experience of young and adolescent girls. The love that these girls felt for their families was innocent and strong at the same time. The personalities of other characters including parents, uncles, and grandmothers included in the stories were also incredibly realistic, unique, and occasionally hilarious. I also really liked how Zhang’s stories move back and forth between China and the US, creating a complete picture of both the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the struggle to survive as an immigrant in America.
What I didn’t like about Sour Heart was that the stories and characters were occasionally repetitive. Many of the young female narrators seemed to have the same personalities and voices. Furthermore, in my opinion one scene involving sexual assault was described in an uncomfortable and insensitive way.
You should read Sour Heart if you enjoy short fiction, and if you are interested in stories of immigration, family, and struggle. Overall, I was really impressed by this collection and I am excited for its publication date. I definitely recommend Sour Heart.
Thanks for reading!