Source: DRC via NetGalley (PENGUIN GROUP, Penguin Pres, The Penguin Press)
Pub. Date: March 22, 2022
Why did I choose to read this book?
I love taking chances on debut novels.
Also, this quote from the synopsis hooked me and caused me to race to NetGalley to see if it was available:
“An uproarious and bighearted satire, alive with sharp edges, immense warmth, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Disorientation is both a blistering send-up of white supremacy in academia, and a profound reckoning of a Taiwanese American woman’s complicity and unspoken rage.”
Here at Angry Angel Books we are all about (1) character investment, (2) the destruction of white supremacy wherever it resides, (3) pissing on the rancid state of academia, (4) spoken and unspoken rage, and (4) satire. Hit me with your best shot, I’m ready.
What is this book about?
This book is about a doctoral student who has been coerced into studying something (someone) for her dissertation by her white advisor in the East Asian studies department and is struggling with being motivated to write. The story unfurls like a flower and each petal shows one of various discourses surrounding Asian American, specifically first generation female Asian American, experience. White supremacy, asian fetishists, societal conditioning and masking of racism, trying to be something you’re not to fit in when you never really will – this book really throws all the ingredients in the pot and makes you eat it in one serving.
What is notable about the story?
This book is difficult to read through my white lens, and I suspect it would be ten times more difficult to absorb if you were an immigrant, a child of immigrants, or of East Asian descent. It doesn’t hide any argument, any conflict – you have to think about everything all at once. If I had to compare it to something, it’s like those crystals you can hang in a window and when the light strikes them, they throw little rainbows everywhere. You think Ingrid’s real problem is her dissertation, and then the light hits parts of her life and you discover that her problems have problems, and they are all around her, pulling her down and making her question who she truly wants to be and who she wants to have in her life. This is a mental/emotional/intellectual struggle that all children of immigrants have to face at some point in their lives, and reading this story helped me understand what it might be like.
Was anything not so great?
A side effect of this kind of story written so well with so much complexity, is that at several points it felt like I was reading a Twitter thread where people were arguing in the replies about who was Asian enough, who had the right to say what was Asian enough, and that was…very tiring. It’s my privilege showing when I say this, because I only have to encounter this when I read diverse books. Real people face this kind of discourse nonstop in their lives online, interpersonally, and inside their own minds. The point here is to make you realize that, I only mention it here because less dedicated readers than myself probably would have put the book down earlier because of this. It’s a downside for sure, but press through. It’s worth it.
What’s the verdict?
A strong 3 stars on Goodreads, Disorientation seems like the kind of book you assign a college seminar course to read and discuss, and less a book that you would pick up at your local book store to read for pleasure. The explorations within are worthwhile, and if you are a white person who wants to become a stronger ally to others, reading this book will widen your view and deepen your understanding. I’ll always recommend a book like this, the world needs more understanding and thoughtful interaction.
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