ALU Book Club: Further Reading after Shenzheners

August 23, 2017

We’re turning the last page on our August book club pick, Shenzheners by Xue Yiwei (Linda Leith Publishing): a move that has us, like book-lovers around the world, looking for our next read. We pored over tons of titles that struck the same lonely, introspective chords that Shenzheners did, and came up with these four that run in similar veins to this short story collection (+ one bonus read!).

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Check out the four books that we think resonate with Shenzheners best.

 

If the tangled interpersonal mess of “The Two Sisters” was your favourite story in the collection…

 

Try...

 

Arigato, Toyko by Daniel MacIvor (Playwrights Canada Press and Banff Centre Press) 

Just as Xue Yiwei borrowed from canonical stories both Western and Eastern to sculpt his collection (including the titular Dubliners from James Joyce), playwright Daniel MacIvor bases his Arigato, Tokyo in The Tale of Genji. In the play, a Canadian author touring Japan enters a complicated love triangle with two sisters, and a fraught relationship with clandestine Japan itself. You’ll see “The Two Sisters” in the characters’ self-destructive tendencies, their competitiveness, and the hairiness of the situations they put themselves in. 

 

 

 

If you wanted a further exploration of "rootless" expat culture...

 

Try...

 

How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square by Rea Tarvydas (Thistledown Press)

Just as Shenzhen is described as the “youngest city in China,” Hong Kong is “the most thrilling city on the planet” – and it shows through the eyes of expatriate workers whose individual stories are shared over drinks at their common watering hole, The Globe. Like Shenzheners, the characters in How to Pick Up a Maid in Statue Square contend with the tenuousness of having relationships to others as their only anchors in a place that’s not quite home.

 

 

 

 

If the human relationships in the book were what you wrote home about...

 

Try…

 

Somewhere a Long and Happy Life Probably Awaits You by Jill Sexsmith (ARP Books)

Regardless of who is followed in each of the stories in Shenzheners, one thing is clear: it is that character’s relationships with those around them that define their story arc (and not something environmental or internal). Jill Sexsmith’s Somewhere a Long and Happy Life Probably Awaits You has a similar tack, with a magical realism edge: the characters in her short stories (including a child prodigy to match that in Shenzheners) struggle for validation amidst red deserts, lonely rooms, and the suburbs.

 

 

 

If you wanted to read this book exactly, but in poetry form...

 

Try…

 

The Family China by Ann Shin (Brick Books) 

In comparing The Family China to Shenzheners, we can’t really do better than the description for this collection of poetry: “These poems grapple rawly and musically with the profound messiness of human relations; their candour consoles and instructs.” Xue Yiwei’s nine heartache-inducing narratives meet their matches in the five suites of this book, rife with additional footnotes that compete for the reader’s attention.

 

 

 

 

BONUS: If you just want to read more of Xue Yiwei's fantastic writing...

 

Try...

 

Dr. Bethune’s Children by Xue Yiwei (Linda Leith Publishing) 

Releasing September 2nd (but available now on All Lit Up!), Dr. Bethune’s Children is Xue Yiwei’s first translated novel into English, and so controversial that it’s banned in his native China.

 

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We’re going to miss you, summer book club (and summer)! Thanks for joining us through personality quizzes and publisher chats to staff discussions to author interviews to today’s further recommendations – your final act of participation can be purchasing your own copy of Shenzheners (and our July pick, Death and the Intern) at a 15% discount until August 31st.


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