||TROUBLEMAKER AND OTHER SAINTS
by Christina Chiu
add to cart | U.S. $12.95
Eclectic members of three Chinese families clash and connect, in a series of intertwined stories that reveal both cultural and generational displacement. The life of one character weaves into that of another, and then another, and unlikely figures are brought face to face, strengthening and illuminating one another in surprising ways.
Who are the troublemakers? Who are the saints? In "Troublemaker," a young tough finds his humanity when he is forced to care for an old man he has assaulted with a beer can. In "Doctor," a family's golden child marries a black man and is shunned by everyoneexcept her schizophrenic uncle. In "Mama," traditional parents come to the rescue of their bisexual daughter, who has broken up with her lover. In "Gentleman," a wealthy alcoholic Hong Kong businessman facing financial ruin fails to connect with those around him, including a nymphomaniac niece and a mother who speaks to the dead. And in the closing story, a thief stumbles across his past while committing what he intends to be his final robbery.
Who betrays whom? Who gets trapped within their limitations, and who transcends them to discover a moment of truth? East and West, old and young collide in a struggle to advance and to belong. These stories illustrate, with humor and pain, that just as there is a bit of troublemaker in each of us, there is something beautiful and, ultimately, redemptive.
ABOUT CHRISTINA CHIU
Christina Chiu has been the recipient of the Van Lier Fellowship, the Lannon Foundation Fellowship and the Claire Woolrich Scholarship. Her stories have appeared in Tin House, The MacGuffin, and other magazines. She obtained a Bachelor degree in East Asian Studies at Bates College and a master's degree in fine arts at Columbia University. This collection, Troublemaker and Other Saints, was her master's thesis. "Troublemaker" won third place in the Playboy Fiction Contest, "Matriarch" won second place in the El Dorado Writers' Guild Writing Contest, and "Gentleman" won a prize in England's World Wide Writers Contest. Chiu is a cofounder of the Asian American Writers Workshop. She lives in New York, and is at work on her first novel.
"With rude wit and raw emotional force, an impressive first collection . . . Chiu weaves gracefully among her characters' stories. Wonderfully involving and intelligent work, from a strikingly gifted new writer."
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"With her explosive Troublemaker and Other Saints, Christina Chiu has accomplished what only Lucinda Williams is able to do in songsturn serious topics, such as suicide and unhappy romance, into celebrations of life. Chiu takes us further into the "heart of darkness," until it isn't dark anymore. Her vibrant prose and unflinching voice restore our belief that no matter how up-and-down our lives can become, everything is bearable if it's well told."
Hal Sirowitz, author of Mother Said
"Troublemaker and Other Saints is full of intriguing situations and great conversations. In describing how Chinese immigrants deal with their American kids, Christina Chiu reveals all our misunderstandings and hopes. I loved every page and would read anything this woman writes!"
Alice Elliott Dark, author of In the Gloaming: Stories
"These compelling tales of loneliness and loss, hunger and need, the pain and crazy love for family will break your heart, and strangely, leave you feeling uplifted."
Mei Ng, author of Eating Chinese Food Naked
"Fresh, daring, bold, Troublemaker and Other Saints eagerly explores the neither-here-nor-thereness of young Chinese-Americans as they bridge the gap between two complex and troubling social orders with humor, pathos, and heart. How often have you heard the phrase 'a writer to watch'? Christina Chiu is a writer to read."
Helen Schulman, author of The Revisionist
"These are accomplished stories, with the mark of a true storyteller who brings the reader a wide range of perspectives and believable points of view."
Elizabeth Strout, author of Amy and Isabelle
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINA CHIU
Where do you get your ideas?
For me, writing is an expression of something I feel passionately about. Often, I see or hear something that will move me enough to write about it. One day, for example, while waiting for my appointment at a doctor's office, I came across the Personals section at the back of a magazine. I noticed that several ads, usually by white men, targeted Asian Women. This seemed a little strange to me, and it spurred all kinds of questions. I could understand saying that you're interested in someone who likes sports or dining out is one thing. But Asian? Why? Who would write a thing like that? And, more importantly, who would answer an ad like that? These questions lead me to explore the particular characters and situations in the story "Beauty."
Is Troublemaker and Other Saints autobiographical? Are you Laurel in "Nobody" or Georgianna in "Doctor"?
The characters in Troublemaker are all fictional. I thought of this question ahead of time, and this was one of the reasons why I created such a diverse cast of characterssome are old, some young; some are female, others male. This doesn't mean that certain aspects can't be true to me. For one, Laurel and I both love to read Shakespeare, and so I relate to her passion for it, but really, when I was Laurel's age, I never read anything unless I had to for school.
Which "Saint" do you relate to most?
It's the troublemaker that I relate to most. No, I didn't grow up in Chinatown, and I never assaulted anyone with a beer can. Yet, there's a lot about Eric that I can relate to, like being labeled a troublemaker. Also, I can relate to his frustration and rage at feeling all the invisible boundaries that determine what I can or cannot do because of my race.
In Troublemaker and Other Saints, characters that appear in one story tend to reappear in later stories. Did you intend this when you started writing?
Initially, no. I had the idea to write about these different characters and they'd be tied together thematically. But as I continued writing, characters I wrote about in earlier stories started reappearing in later ones. Characters like Laurel and Seymour came from two separate worlds, and yet, there they were together in "Thief".
Where are you from? Were you born in China?
I was born in Manhattan and raised in Westchester, a suburb of New York. I've been to China, but only for short trips. My parents, however, were both born in Shanghai. They met in Hong Kong where they married and came to the United States before I was born.
What are you working on now?
I'm writing a novel based on one of the stories from Troublemaker and Other Saints.
- What are some of the main themes that run through these stories? How they relate to the title?
- How does the loss of Grandma in "Nobody" resonate with the other relationships in the story? How does the loss echo in later stories?
- On the surface, Georgianna is a "model" Asian. How does this notion ultimately help to undermine her recovery? Though her situation is quite different from Laurel's, do they share anything in common?
- At the very end of "Matriarch," Peony says, "Sister, may you rest in peace now." What does she mean by this?
- How does the scene at the skating rinkthe music and the French couplehelp to underscore the rest of "Mama"? What does Mama mean when she says of her daughter, "All her life she's had too many choices"?
- Eric is labeled a troublemaker. Does he believe he is? How does this play out in the rest of the story?
- How does Eric's relationship with Lao Gong change him? What does he gain just at the moment when he thinks he's lost the old man?
- How is the background and setting of the Handover integral to the plot in "Gentleman"? How is the protagonist's voice different from Eric's in "Troublemaker" or Laurel's in "Nobody"?
- In both "Mama" and "Star" there is a mother figure struggling with the fact that her child is gay. How do these mothers handle their situations?
- At what point do you think Jonathan's fiancée in "Trader" makes the decision to leave him? Jonathan thinks she is overreacting to the body shot. In your opinion, is she? Do you blame Jonathon for not doing anything?
- Why does Amy agree to go with Jim to the bar in "Beauty"? What does Amy realize at the end of the story when she is looking through the peephole at Angel? Do you believe she'll open the door?
- In "Nobody," Laurel contemplates suicide, and yet, we learn later in "Copycat" that Sarah was the one to fall victim to it. Did this take you by surprise? How does her suicide impact on her family?
- How is the story within the story about the dying horse relevant to what happens? By the end of the story, what is lost and what is gained?
- In your opinion, is "Thief" a tragedy? Can a thief be a hero? In taking the necklace, what does Seymour "steal"?