Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • “Epic and intimate at once, Bestiary brings myth to visceral life. K-Ming Chang's talent exposes what is hidden inside us. She makes magic on the page.”—Julia Philips, author of Disappearing Earth
One evening, Mother tells Daughter a story about a tiger spirit who lived in a woman’s body. She was called Hu Gu Po, and she hungered to eat children, especially their toes. Soon afterward, Daughter awakes with a tiger tail. And more mysterious events follow: Holes in the backyard spit up letters penned by her grandmother; a visiting aunt arrives with snakes in her belly; a brother tests the possibility of flight. All the while, Daughter is falling for Ben, a neighborhood girl with strange powers of her own. As the two young lovers translate the grandmother’s letters, Daughter begins to understand that each woman in her family embodies a myth—and that she will have to bring her family’s secrets to light in order to change their destiny.
With a poetic voice of crackling electricity, K-Ming Chang is an explosive young writer who combines the wit and fabulism of Helen Oyeyemi with the subversive storytelling of Maxine Hong Kingston. Tracing one family’s history from Taiwan to America, from Arkansas to California, Bestiary is a novel of migration, queer lineages, and girlhood.
Praise for Bestiary
“[A] vivid, fabulist debut . . . the prose is full of imagery. Chang’s wild story of a family’s tenuous grasp on belonging in the U.S. stands out with a deep commitment to exploring discomfort with the body and its transformations.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
K-Ming Chang was born in the year of the tiger. She is a Kundiman Fellow and a Lambda Literary Award finalist in poetry. Her poems have been anthologized in Ink Knows No Borders, Best New Poets 2018, Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, the 2019 Pushcart Prize Anthology, and elsewhere. Raised in California, she now lives in New York.
“Gorgeous and gorgeously grotesque . . . Every line of this sensuous, magical-realist marvel—about multiple generations of Taiwanese-American women in Arkansas whose lives are imbued with cultural and familial myth—is utterly alive.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Young queer love, family secrets, and a girl who grows a tiger tale, all told by a language obsessive? Extremely sold.”—Lithub “K-Ming Chang, an extremely talented young Taiwanese-American author, offers a wild portrait of three generations of women who have in them tigers, snakes, and birds: the myths of their homeland.”—The Millions
“To read K-Ming Chang is to see the world in fresh, surreal technicolor. Hers is a dizzyingly imaginative, sharp-witted voice queering migration, adolescence, and questions of family and belonging in totally new and unexpected ways. Both wild and lyrical, visionary and touching. Read her!”—Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
“Fierce and funny, full of magic and grit, Bestiary is the most searching exploration of love and belonging I’ve read in a long time. Family, immigrant, queer, magic realist—none of these tags can quite capture the energy of this startling novel, which is all of those things, yet somehow more. K-Ming Chang has created something truly remarkable.”—Tash Aw, author ofWe, the Survivors
“Told by many voices, Bestiary is a queer, transnational fairy tale whose irresistible heroine is a Taiwanese American baby dyke. Written in a prose style as inventive and astonishing as the story it tells, to read it is to enter a world where the female body possesses enormous power, where the borders between generations are porous and shifting. A worthy heir to Maxine Hong Kingston, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, and Jamaica Kincaid, K-Ming Chang is a woman warrior for the 21st century—part oracle, part witness, all heart.”—Jennifer Tseng, author of Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness
“This book astounded me, unsettled me, and left me envious of K-Ming Chang’s talent. Bestiary is a gleaming, meticulously crafted gem. I could spend all day marvelling at Chang’s prose; these are sentences you want to climb inside, relish, and read again and again just for the pleasure of the language.”—Jessica J. Lee, author ofTurning and Two Trees Make a Forest
“Bestiary is crafted at the scale of epic poetry: origin stories that feel at once gravely older than their years, yet viscerally contemporary. Chang knows well that the life of a family—marriage, immigration, queer coming-of-age—can so often feel like a wild and tender myth, being spun and unspun by its members, again and again. These are fables I wish I’d had growing up.”—Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart
“K-Ming Chang is ferociously talented, one of my favorite new writers. She understands the language of desire and secrecy. Here is a book so wise; so gripping; so mythical and dangerous; so infused with surreal beauty, it burns to be read, and read again.”—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals