Disorientation

  • Type: Books
  • By: Elaine Hsieh Chou
  • Age Category: Adults
  • Genre: General Fiction
  • Recommended by: Skyler L.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9780593298350
  • Check Catalog

Ingrid, an 8th year PhD, is feeling stagnant. When she finds a strange note, her world is upended.

Disorienation is one of my favorite reads this year, if not making it to my favorites-of-all-time shelf. (Plus, I am obsessed with the cover design - yes I judge a book by its cover, sorry not sorry!). Elaine Hsieh Chou shows skill in portraying flawed characters that learn, grow (not all of them, but the ones that count!), and face both internal turmoil and larger societal issues.

I really enjoyed this book! It was a relatively realistic portrayal of a stagnant life in academia, and how a simple hunch, just following a curious lead, how allowing an inquisitive nature to take over, can upend everything. I think a quote on the back can best sum the thoughts I have on the intellectual themes presented, this book is “intent on what feels like a decolonization of the protagonist, if not the reader, that just might set her free” (Alexander Chee). Ingrid, who is in her eighth year of her PhD studying Asian American poet Xiao-Wen Chou, is moderate and placid, reluctant to do or say anything she deems “political.” She goes so far as to disliking calling people white, preferring “Anglo-Saxon European” over even Caucasian. Vivian Vo is her foil: she is studying Chou from a post colonial view, and seen as radical and inflammatory. We are presented with a story that, below the surface, examines traditional (read: Western) views on academia and new, modern views that challenge the long-held norms, parallel to Ingrid’s growth throughout the book.