What to do as we mourn the waste of Harvard’s time and find our days wasted by the new unsightly gaps between classes? Harvard Hour was a perfect invention, seven minutes in Harvard Heaven; 15 minutes is a horrible and unnecessary interval, too long to walk around the yard and too short for a real rest. I can only suggest that we fill this annoying idle time with good short reads, of which there are plenty. As a starting point, here are five fun short stories from Asian American writers.
1. “My dear you” by Rachel Khong (Tin house, May 2017)
“I chose fifty-four millimeters for the space between my eyes. All my life my eyes had been far apart and as I grew older other children called me ‘Hammerhead’. Something what no one is telling you is that when you die a death in which your face and body are completely mutilated, you can choose your face in heaven, whatever face you choose. But the color of the skin, the shape of the nose, lips and teeth, it’s all up to you. That’s the silver lining. “
In “My Dear You”, a woman is killed by a crocodile and ends up in paradise, where everyone is hot. If that sounds like a cheesy premise to you, you’re not wrong, but you should read this story anyway. I read “My Dear You” this summer at work and had to hide under my desk so people wouldn’t see me cry – me, the great irreligious cynic! Khong is an absolutely stunning writer with a knack for humor and an eye for the weird and poignant little details. Read “My Dear You” as soon as possible and you won’t be disappointed.
2. “Flawless Silence” by Yiyun Li (The New Yorker, April 2018)
“Sandra said she called Chuck a fanatic and he called her a bad name. Min didn’t call Rich anything disparaging. He married her because she didn’t. was not the kind of woman who would use strong words. “
“A Flawless Silence” is about a Chinese-American woman whose husband is a Republican and a jerk. Although set in California, the story has a strong WeChat energy in New Jersey, which should be recognizable to anyone who’s ever gone to a Harvard meetup in New Jersey or spent a lot of time among the New Jersey crowds- Harvard WeChat; no other writer has captured the times of this unique demographic with such precision. (If you know, you know, and vice versa.)
3. “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying” by Alice Sola Kim (Monstrous ailments: an anthology of bestial tales)
“At midnight we pulled up near a Staples and tried some really dark fucking magic.”
In “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying,” a group of Korean-American adoptees cast a spell to find their respective biological mothers. At the same time hilarious, disturbing and tender, this story is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever missed or hated his mother. Fans of science fiction and fantasy writing in particular will enjoy Alice Sola Kim’s other stories, including “The Next World and the Next” (Lenny’s letter, July 2016).
4. “Sweetheart Sorrow” by David Hoon Kim (The New Yorker, June 2007)
“Fumiko had already locked herself in, even though she was still coming out of her isolation after a night or two. Thought of a love affair that was coming to an end. A sadness that one isn’t ready to yet. As I walked away without knocking, I could almost hear my father’s voice in my head.
A Danish graduate student who was adopted in Japan as a baby goes to Paris and helps an eccentric French scientist translate his work. Meanwhile, the student’s girlfriend has been locked in her bedroom for weeks. Kim incorporates multilingualism, physics and elements of the Gothic into this brilliant cross-cultural tale. Good product.
5. “The puppet master made the puppets” by Vauhini Vara (McSweeney’s number 50)
“The morning hurts. Blood on my arms and legs. Brown cream under my fingernails. My blood and skin. Mee rubs coconut oil on my skin. One morning I use my fingernail to scrape the brown from the other fingernails. ball with it. Hide it in the bathroom drawer behind the safety pins. The next day I make the ball larger. I have to roll and roll to make it spin. One pearl.
“Puppet Master Made the Puppets” is a wonderfully disturbing story about a little girl and her parents, Mee and Dee. It’s not easy to write from a child’s point of view, but Vauhini Vara does it perfectly. You’ll need to buy McSweeney’s issue 50 to read this story, but you should still be supporting the arts.