Home Remedies

Stories
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A FINALIST FOR THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY YOUNG LIONS FICTION AWARD • SHORTLISTED FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT SHORT STORY COLLECTION • WINNER OF THE CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARDS GOLD MEDAL IN FIRST FICTION • WINNER OF THE JOHN ZACHARIS FIRST BOOK AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE STORY PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY LIBRARY JOURNAL 

“An urgent and necessary literary voice.”—Alexander Chee, Electric Literature   
“Tough, luminous stories.”—The New York Times Book Review 
“Spectacular.”—Vogue

Xuan Juliana Wang's remarkable debut introduces us to the new and changing face of Chinese youth. From fuerdai (second-generation rich kids) to a glass-swallowing qigong grandmaster, her dazzling, formally inventive stories upend the immigrant narrative to reveal a new experience of belonging: of young people testing the limits of who they are, in a world as vast and varied as their ambitions.
 
In stories of love, family, and friendship, here are the voices, faces and stories of a new generation never before captured between the pages in fiction. What sets them apart is Juliana Wang’s surprising imagination, able to capture the innermost thoughts of her characters with astonishing empathy, as well as the contradictions of the modern immigrant experience in a way that feels almost universal. Home Remedies is, in the words of Alexander Chee, “the arrival of an urgent and necessary literary voice we’ve been needing, waiting for maybe, without knowing.”
 
Praise for Home Remedies

“A radiant new talent.”—Lauren Groff
 
“These dazzling stories interrogate the fractures, collisions and glorious new alloys of what it means to be a Chinese millennial.”—Adam Johnson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Orphan Master’s Son

Home Remedies doesn’t read like a first collection; like Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, the twelve stories here announce the arrival of an exciting, electric new voice.”Financial Times

“Stylistically ambitious in a way rarely seen in prose fiction . . . Writing like this will never stop enlightening us. [Wang’s] voice comes to us from the edge of a new world.”Los Angeles Review of Books

Praise

“A must-read literary force with . . . debut collection of stories that brings to life characters from the Chinese diaspora. . . . Each one underscores the imaginative and compelling mind of this fresh new voice.”The Daily Beast, “The Best Summer Beach Reads of 2019”

“Remarkable . . . Wang captures the strivings and uncertainty of Chinese youth establishing themselves in America and beyond. . . . [A] deft, striking debut.”New York Observer, “Spring 2019 Must-Read Books”

“Tough, luminous stories about destiny, fealty, belonging and heartbreak . . . Wang unpacks unwieldy relationships with a light touch, slicing cleanly through the intricacies to render them instantly familiar. . . . Wang’s writing is sensory, cinematic and fluid.”The New York Times Book Review

“Spectacular . . . Wang has cherry-picked from disparate worlds and engineered a whole new, sublimely captivating one.”Vogue

“Filled with characters who mirror the chaos and anxiety, exhilaration and despair, desire and fear of the world around them, Home Remedies offers searing portraits of millennial Chinese immigrants. . . . Wang’s shimmering words offer proof that even the most mundane of these lives have the potential to become something extraordinary. . . .  A great, explosive talent.”Nylon, “Best New Books of May”

“Superb . . . a perfect book to dip into this summer. Fresh, clever, and shouldn’t be missed.”Publishers Weekly, “Top 10 Summer Reads”

“Artful, funny, generous and empathetic . . . a radiant new talent.”—Lauren Groff

“These dazzling stories interrogate the fractures, collisions and glorious new alloys of what it means to be a Chinese millennial.”—Adam Johnson, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Orphan Master’s Son

“Vast in scope and ridiculously accomplished… Xuan Juliana Wang is singing an incredibly complex song of hybridity and heart.”—Justin Torres, author of We, the Animals

“With style, verve and grace, Wang’s stories surprise and challenge in wonderful ways.”—Weike Wang, author of Chemistry

“Tasty little bits of perfection. One of the great debuts of the year.”—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story

“This delightful debut collection of twelve stories should land on multiple must-read lists. Wang has captured the spirit and energy of contemporary Chinese youth. . . . [Her] stories are funny, generous, and surprising as they introduce a youthful demographic that is growing worldwide. Highly recommended.”Library Journal (starred review)

“Wang's stories are spare and haunting, with endings that leave characters just as unsettled as their beginnings. . . . It fully embraces Wang’s love of the uncanny as a way to parse generational misunderstanding or the surreality of contemporary life. A sharp and poignant collection.”Kirkus Reviews

'A beautiful arrangement of narratives that moves from the mundane pressures of family life to the stranger fantasies of domestic science fiction.' Alta magazine

Excerpt

Home Remedies for Non–Life-Threatening Ailments
 
Boredom (Born from general confusion stemming from lack of clear direction/complete misunderstanding of life’s purpose.)
 
Stay indoors, in a room with bad lighting but many make­shift ashtrays. Arrange and rearrange your comforter into var­ious malleable structures. Stand back and give names to the newly birthed forms. Now it is a manatee. Now it is Abraham Lincoln’s headless body. Now it is a giant nose. Applaud your­self for your mastery, for now you can be fairly certain of the potential you possess as a visual artist.
 
Write a letter to the boy named Bunny whom you met on a train in Croatia. The one who spoke to trees and set his watch to random hours as his way of time traveling; write to him that you hope he is still alive and insane. Tell him you are glad you’re not him and even more glad he’s no longer following you around, talking about modernism.
 
Grief (Not your own grief, but your father’s grief, after your fourteen-year-old dog dies. He calls often, sobbing into the receiver. Even though he’s a fifty-five-year-old man who should know that a blind asthmatic basset hound was not going to live forever. Grief that hardens when you realize that life has gradually become very difficult for your father, and you’re at a loss as to how to comfort him. There are many ways of living, places to hang hopes and direct love, and it’s quite obvious to you that a very old dog was probably not a good place to hang his. So it’s specifically that kind of grief.)
 
Let his phone calls ring and ring. Delete voice messages ro­botically, holding the phone away from your ear. If your heart is the fruit from which the nectar of comforting words could be squeezed, that fruit is dry. The dregs could be called mockery. They would sting him bitterly.
 
It is better to focus on a problem you can help him solve. How about those giant squirrels that have taken over his back­yard? Eating the grass bald in patches, like alien spaceship land­ings. Order poison that he couldn’t use when he had a dog around. When all the squirrels are dead, the guilt that both of you will share is sure to keep him from calling you for at least two weeks.
 
Inappropriate Feelings (Toward married contemporary British drama professors.)
 
Go to his office hours religiously, bringing in new opinions on plays he’d recommended. Show him the plays you’ve writ­ten inspired by the plays he’s asked you to read. Fiddle with the framed photos on his desk as you talk about your family, his hometown, your boyfriend, and his wife. Laugh a lot. Babysit his three-year-old daughter, Elaine, and while she’s asleep, go to his room and smell his shirts.
 
Agree to go to dinner with him downtown, tell him things about your father you’ve never told anyone else. You will begin to feel queasy when you realize this is the first time you’ve ever been alone with him outside of school. When he asks you up to his studio loft to show you his sculptures, say “Cool! Defi­nitely!” with eyebrows arched. When he goes to stroke your hair, act surprised, say something antiquated like “Oh my!”
 
Take his clothes off while making out with him on his couch. Make mental notes of the peculiarity of his needy old-man lips, his loose old-man skin, and his strange rubbery old-man hard-on. Something will happen right then that’ll make him seem less a sexy, gentle intellectual and more just like the guy who “hey hey heys” at you outside the bodega. Your inap­propriate feelings will then be dissolved into a satisfied curios­ity and now you can pull back, walk out of the apartment, and leave him naked, bewildered, gasping.
 
Self-Doubt (In your abilities as a playwright stemming from Inappropriate Feelings toward married contemporary British drama professors.)
 
Switch your major to archaeology, to criminology, to li­brary science. Take a semester off to work at a florist across town that specializes in enormous bouquets and fountains.
 
Write a play about a large, wrinkly alien who terrorizes Los Angeles.
 
Fear of Flying (Because every time you fly, you land somewhere new and you have to make new friends.)
 
Leave something you love in every city you’ve lived in. A record player in Shanghai, a kitten in Seattle, your best dresses hanging in a closet in Paris. That way you’ll always have a rea­son to retrace your steps back to old friends. So it means you won’t have to stay away forever. Learn to enjoy being alone, appreciate the silence of dinners where an entire roast duck can be gnawed away, cartilage and all, without conversational in­terruption. You are free and oh-so-mysterious. Think: Friends, who needs friends?
 
Bilingual Heartache (From someone breaking your heart in a foreign lan­guage. It is like regular heartache but somehow it’s painful in a creative, new way.)
 
Pray that a painful cold sore appears on your face so that you can instead wallow in self-pity.
 
Self-Pity (A by-product of chronic dissatisfaction with your wide, uninter­esting face.)
 
Get your nails done by a seventeen-year-old Vietnamese girl who probably weighs about as much as one of your thighs. After she puts your hands in a bowl of smelly water, she rubs lo­tion into your fingers. She looks up at your face and says, “Your hands are so white and soft, you never do any housework, do you?”
 
Open your mouth to protest, as if she were your mother, but then agree; she guessed correctly. Nod. Lower your head.
 
Dwelling on the Past (You remember seeing your parents waltzing in the living room of the first house you lived in. You think about your father on his knees like a wounded animal, bent over the newspaper looking for work. You hear the echoes of your mother sobbing in the shower on your way to elementary school. These memories become a fable, entitled “The Legend of Mom and Dad,” and it is tied to you like a cloud-shaped balloon above your head.)
 
Begin researching random things of interest. The history of Jamaica, for example, and the tragic disappearance of indig­enous people is a good place to start. Start a blog about Jamaica and Jamaican cuisine. Establish a huge Internet presence.
 
Insomnia (Because now that you spend so much time on the Internet in order to avoid Dwelling on the Past.)
 
Make paper planes with New Yorker subscription postcards. Rearrange bedroom furniture. Tipple Nyquil from the bottle, and as your arms go numb and your chest sinks to the bottom of the mattress, think how much better life is now. Really! Your parents are no longer married, but everyone is eating high-quality local organic produce, only they’re eating it alone and now no one gets to argue. Isn’t that better?

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