A young gymnast crushes on an older, more talented teammate while contending with her overworked mother. A newly queer twenty-something juggles two intimate relationships--with a slippery anarchist lover and an idiosyncratic meals-on-wheels recipient. A queer metal band's summer tour unravels amid the sticky heat of the Northeastern US. A codependent listicle writer becomes obsessed with a Japanese ASMR channel.
The stories in Personal Attention Roleplay are propelled by queer loneliness, mixed-race confusion, late capitalist despondency, and the pitfalls of intimacy. Taking place in Montreal, Toronto, and elsewhere, they feature young Asian misfits struggling with the desire to see themselves reflected--in their surroundings, in others, online. Chau Bradley's precise language and investigation of our more troubling motivations stand out in this wryly funny debut, through stories that hint at the uncanny while remaining grounded in the everyday.
About the author
Helen Chau Bradley is a writer, musician, and arts administrator living in Tio'tia:ke / Montreal. They are the author of Automatic Object Lessons (House House Press, 2020). Their stories and essays have appeared in carte blanche, Cosmonauts Avenue, Entropy Magazine, Maisonneuve Magazine, the Montreal Review of Books, and elsewhere.
Excerpt: Personal Attention Roleplay (by (author) Helen Chau Bradley)
The day after my first sleepover with V, I am buoyant in a way I feel certain must be transferring to the clients. I greet each one breathlessly, flushed, teeth dry from grinning into the wind. I linger with the people who want to chat, instead of scurrying away immediately as I usually do. I help M. Rancourt with his cat litter, I change a lightbulb for Mme. Colley. I discuss conspiracy theories with Mr. Del Santo for half an hour while he rolls and smokes a joint in his pyjamas. Between stops, I take the hills head-on, I coast the dips with no hands, I am expanding like the universe, I think, I have infinite care to give and I know it will come back to me. I am ready to receive. I spot a patch of new crocuses, the first blooms of the season, and tear up with tenderness.
I arrive, bubbling over, at the last client's apartment. She greets me by throwing a jiggling sack of raw meat at my face. Fortunately, I have good reflexes. I catch it before it hits, and cradle it gently. I can see the blood streaking down the insides of the plastic, little bubbles of pink. She yells that we delivered her an uncooked dinner last time. "It's unacceptable! Bande de caves! Vous n'avez aucun respect pour moi!" She is sobbing a little, but also smiling, maybe with rage. I consider dialling the on-duty staff, but then I think, I can handle this. I apologize to her in my calmest voice, gently place this evening's meal container on her hall table, and tell her I will sort it out with "the bosses," even though the Centre is a non-hierarchical collective. She still slams the door, but after patting my hand a little.
"With an enticing mix of sincerity, irony, and wit, the stories in Helen Chau Bradley's Personal Attention Roleplay offer brilliant portrayals of deliciously awkward interactions and isolations. No image, no metaphor, is out of place in the mouth of its speaker, and each speaker is a sympathetic (even while, at times, flawed) representation of their generation, community, and culture. The effect is an effortlessly cool book that gifts a welcome shakeup to Asian Canadian lit. To say I'm inspired is an understatement." - Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related: A Memoir
"Helen Chau Bradley's first collection is supremely ordinary but that's its magic, their stories are deeply experiential and in their familiar excess I felt transported into an array of different bodies and moments that make up this time and each ending releasing me into the next set of conditions that puzzle out the almost sci fi specificity of the unexpected world "this" contemporary is. I felt compelled to keep reading being held by an impulse to not be alone today or tonight. Personal Attention Roleplay is a canny and companionable book, actually sweet." -Eileen Myles, author of Chelsea Girls