Salt Fish Girl is the mesmerizing tale of an ageless female character who shifts shape and form through time and place. Told in the beguiling voice of a narrator who is fish, snake, girl, and woman - all of whom must struggle against adversity for survival - the novel is set alternately in nineteenth-century China and in a futuristic Pacific Northwest.
At turns whimsical and wry, Salt Fish Girl intertwines the story of Nu Wa, the shape-shifter, and that of Miranda, a troubled young girl living in the walled city of Serendipity circa 2044. Miranda is haunted by traces of her mother’s glamourous cabaret career, the strange smell of durian fruit that lingers about her, and odd tokens reminiscient of Nu Wa. Could Miranda be infected by the Dreaming Disease that makes the past leak into the present?
Framed by a playful sense of magical realism, Salt Fish Girl reveals a futuristic Pacific Northwest where corporations govern cities, factory workers are cybernetically engineered, middle-class labour is a video game, and those who haven’t sold out to commerce and other ills must fight the evil powers intent on controlling everything. Rich with ancient Chinese mythology and cultural lore, this remarkable novel is about gender, love, honour, intrigue, and fighting against oppression.
About the author
Larissa Lai is the author of two novels, When Fox is a Thousand, shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and Salt Fish Girl, shortlisted for the Tiptree Award, the Sunburst Award and the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Award; one book of poetry Automaton Biographies, shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Award; and a chapbook, Eggs in the Basement, shortlisted for the bp Nichol Chapbook Award.
Through the 90s, she was a cultural organizer in feminist, GLBTQ and anti-racist communities in Vancouver. Now, as an English professor at the University of British Columbia, she teaches courses on race, memory, and citizenship, as well as on biopower and the poetics of relation.
Rita Wong teaches in Critical + Cultural Studies at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, BC, Canada, where she has developed a humanities course focused on water, with the support of a fellowship from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. She is currently researching the poetics of water, supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada: http://downstream.ecuad.ca/ .
Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Prismatic Publics: Innovative Canadian Women's Poetry and Poetics, Regreen: New Canadian Ecological Poetry, Visions of British Columbia (published for an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery), and Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature. She has a passion for daylighting buried urban streams and for watershed literacy. Wong can be found on twitter at https://twitter.com/rrrwong.
She sweeps our imagination with the flick of a fox's tail, the gleam of an eye.
A remarkable debut. It is a magical book.
Books in Canada
Lai has an excellent command of structure making the complex storytelling seem effortless, and the book is full of startling insights into dysfunctional human behaviour.
The Calgary Herald
Salt Fish Girl is a well written and highly inventive novel.
Majestically written, with wild but contained imagery.
A particularly acute pleasure.