Monday, February 25, 2008

"Pangs of Love" by David Wong Louie

I purchased this book after a workshop mate from Tomales Bay photocopied and gave me one of its stories, "The Movers." As luck would have it, I received an email from said workshop mate yesterday, the same day I finished the book.

For me, the most salient story was "Displacement." Mr. and Mrs. Chow have been live-in caretakers for a senile woman when Mrs. Chow decides she wants a place of their own. The subservient relationship the Chows have with the old woman is replicated when they meet the apartment manager and her hyper daughter.

Mrs. Chow learned English in China but pretends to not speak it; it's implied that people assume she doesn't speak it. The theme of the American Dream's disappointment is well trod territory. But the senile old woman and unsavory apartment manager, contrasted with Mrs. Chow's silence and internal monologues, strike a staccato chord.

The closing image, Mrs. Chow looking at a home hair perm billboard ad, which she translates for her husband. She says she won't curl her hair, then looks to the Pacific Ocean and realizes her homeland isn't visible. I thought this realization wasn't needed; it could have ended with Mrs. Chow rejecting an American beauty treatment.

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