Jan/Feb 2022 • Vol. XLIV No. 1 |

Excerpts from The Family Chao

Fa-mi-lee “Please help, young man.” Through the crowd at Union Station, slipping in and out among the travelers, the frail voice reaches James Chao’s inner ear. A first-year college student, James has lost his Mandarin, having forgotten the language as a toddler with two older brothers teaching, loving, and tormenting him exclusively in English. Only from time to time, when he’s not expecting it, will a spoken phrase of Mandarin filter to this innermost chamber of his ear and steal into his consciousness. “Please help.” James turns. He’s looking into the face of an old man. The stranger might be in his seventies, close to James’s father’s age, but he is altogether more frail than “Big Leo”: he clutches an ancient traveling bag in one hand, stooping with the weight of it, and his eyes are milky with time. He’s seen through the cataracts, can see beyond James’s generic jeans and hoodie to recognize another Chinese man. Can the familiarity be also in their

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Lan Samantha Chang’s new novel, The Family Chao, will be published by W. W. Norton in February 2022. She is the author of two previous novels, All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost and Inheritance, and a story collection, Hunger. Chang’s short stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Ploughshares, and The Best American Short Stories. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Academy in Berlin. She lives with her family in Iowa City, where she is director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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Fa-mi-lee “Please help, young man.” Through the crowd at Union Station, slipping in and out among the travelers, the frail voice reaches James Chao’s inner ear. A first-year college student, […]

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