A sly debut story collection that conjures the experience of adolescence through the eyes of Chinese American girls growing up in New York City—for readers of Zadie Smith, Helen Oyeyemi, and Junot Díaz
A fresh new voice emerges with the arrival of Sour Heart, establishing Jenny Zhang as a frank and subversive interpreter of the immigrant experience in America. Her stories cut across generations and continents, moving from the fraught halls of a public school in Flushing, Queens, to the tumultuous streets of Shanghai, China, during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. In the absence of grown-ups, latchkey kids experiment on each other until one day the experiments turn violent; an overbearing mother abandons her artistic aspirations to come to America but relives her glory days through karaoke; and a shy loner struggles to master English so she can speak to God.
Narrated by the daughters of Chinese immigrants who fled imperiled lives as artists back home only to struggle to stay afloat—dumpster diving for food and scamming Atlantic City casino buses to make a buck—these seven stories showcase Zhang’s compassion, moral courage, and a perverse sense of humor reminiscent of Portnoy’s Complaint. A darkly funny and intimate rendering of girlhood, Sour Heart examines what it means to belong to a family, to find your home, leave it, reject it, and return again.
Praise for Sour Heart
“Jenny Zhang arrives as a Chinese-American voice we haven’t heard yet.”—W Magazine
“Compelling writing about what it means to be a teenager . . . It’s brilliant, it’s dark, but it’s also humorous and filled with love. . . . You’ll feel compelled as a human.”—Isaac Fitzgerald, Today
“Sour Heart is a revelation.”—Goop
“Bursting at the seams with honesty, reality, and a tremendous amount of heart.”—PopSugar
“Zhang portrays the courage, humor, and complex emotions of these young women struggling to come to terms with who they are, their families, their bodies, and growing up in poverty, in seven stories that feel true to life.”—BuzzFeed
“Zhang’s version of honesty goes way past the familiar, with passages that burst into bold, startling, brilliance.”—Miranda July
“No terrain is more fraught than the inner world of a girl fighting to define herself, and no writer is better suited to serve as our guide than Jenny Zhang.”—Janet Mock, author of Redefining Realness
“I emerged from Sour Heart bleary-eyed and in love.”—Tavi Gevinson