On Such a Full Sea

Hauntingly familiar yet dazzlingly subversive, Chang-rae Lee's (Native Speaker; A Gesture Life) dystopian parable On Such a Full Sea grafts ethnic otherness to iconic Americana. In one chapter, for example, a large Zen-like mural of the heroine, Fan, with black hair framing an open circle meant for her face, evokes Tom Joad's "I'll be there" speech from The Grapes of Wrath.

The novel begins with Fan's departure from B-Mor--a future Baltimore transformed into an industrial colony of ethnic Chinese created mainly to service the needs of America's Charter class--in search of her mysteriously vanished lover. Fan's literal transgression galvanizes her community to explore the meaning of happiness, which consequently undermines the accepted wisdom. Lee's vision of the future is of a society in constant peril, as its ambivalence toward class, race and gender clashes with a deep yearning to transcend these issues. On another level, though, Lee exuberantly celebrates the creative impulse, a force described as not entirely "natural" to the circumspect Asian-American mindset: "Fan was different," his unnamed narrator tells us. "In this way she startles us, inspires us. She was someone who pursued her project as a genuine artist might, following with focus and intensity as well as an enduring innocence a goal she could not quite understand or see but wholly believed." --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine

Powered by: Xtenit