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Fiction Short Stories (single Author)

We Two Alone

by (author) Jack Wang

Publisher
House of Anansi Press Inc
Initial publish date
Sep 2020
Category
Short Stories (single author), Asian American, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781487007461
    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
    $19.95
  • eBook

    ISBN
    9781487007478
    Publish Date
    Sep 2020
    List Price
    $16.95
  • Downloadable audio file

    ISBN
    9781487008826
    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
    $34.99
  • Downloadable audio file

    ISBN
    9781487008833
    Publish Date
    Feb 2021
    List Price
    $34.99

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Description

A masterful collection of stories that dramatizes the Chinese diaspora across the globe over the past hundred years, We Two Alone is Jack Wang’s astonishing debut work of fiction.

Set on five continents and spanning nearly a century, We Two Alone traces the long arc and evolution of the Chinese immigrant experience. A young laundry boy risks his life to play organized hockey in Canada in the 1920s. A Canadian couple gets caught in the outbreak of violence in Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The consul general of China attempts to save lives following Kristallnacht in Vienna. A family aspires to buy a home in South Africa, during the rise of apartheid. An actor in New York struggles to keep his career alive while yearning to reconcile with his estranged wife.

From the vulnerable and disenfranchised to the educated and elite, the characters in this extraordinary collection embody the diversity of the diaspora at key moments in history and in contemporary times. Jack Wang has crafted deeply affecting stories that not only subvert expectations but contend with mortality and delicately draw out the intimacies and failings of love.

About the author

JACK WANG received a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto, an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona, and a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in creative writing from Florida State University. In 2014–15, he held the David T. K. Wong Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. Stories in his debut collection, We Two Alone, have been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and longlisted for the Journey Prize, and have appeared in PRISM International, the Malahat Review, the New Quarterly, the Humber Literary Review, and Joyland. Originally from Vancouver, Jack Wang is an associate professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, where he lives with his wife, novelist Angelina Mirabella, and their two daughters.

 

Jack Wang's profile page

Awards

  • Long-listed, CBC Canada Reads
  • Winner, Danuta Gleed Literary Award

Excerpt: We Two Alone (by (author) Jack Wang)

From “The Night of Broken Glass”
A finalist for the 2014 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, whose jury included Booker Prize winner Marlon James
Published in Let’s Tell This Story Properly: An Anthology of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Nominated by the New Quarterly for a 2016 National Magazine Award
I met my mother for the first time when I was six. I say “mother” because that was what I was expected to call her, and did, though in fact she was my stepmother. My real mother died of tuberculosis when I was five. A year later my father came home with a new wife. He had been studying international law in Chicago despite already having a Ph.D. in political economics from the University of Munich. While he was gone I received a series of brightly coloured linen postcards of the World’s Fair: the Hall of Science, the Avenue of Flags, the iron lattice towers of the Sky Ride. The theme of the fair was A Century of Progress. That’s where my father met Grace.
It was a windless, thick-aired summer day in Changsha when a motorcar saddled with steamer trucks pulled up in front of our house and a woman in a white blouse, wide-legged trousers, and large round sunglasses climbed out. She was beautiful, which made me sad for my mother and scornful of my father, and she looked too fair to be Chinese. As it turned out, she was half Chinese, born of a Chinese father and a German-American mother. That, along with her clothes and her beauty, made her unlike any woman I had ever seen. My father had secured a large two-storey house on the outskirts of town and staffed it with half a dozen servants, all in an effort to make his new wife comfortable, but as soon as they arrived he was stricken by all he had not foreseen. The house had no running water, and despite the need Grace refused to use the privy, which had no seat and emitted at that time of year an audible drone. After pleading with Grace in hushed tones, my father ordered Old Chao into town for a portable commode, a trip of at least three hours. For the rest of the afternoon my new mother paced the courtyard, smoking one Lucky after another, which made her seem feral and caged.
[…]
Needless to say, Grace was unhappy in China. Though my father had no particular desire to leave, he began to eye the foreign service. When the Governor for whom he worked recommended the post of First Secretary in the Chinese legation in Austria, my father accepted for Grace’s sake. We arrived in Vienna in June of my tenth year, after a three-week voyage on the Conte Verde through Saigon, Singapore, Madras, Bombay, Aden, and Port Said, and at first everything did seem better. The city was glorious with summer, and everywhere open air orchestras paid homage to the old masters, which made our lives seem set to music. Many nights my parents put on tails and gown and went to balls and receptions, living at last the life for which they were meant.
But it wasn’t long before Grace again felt stranded. She could no more distinguish der, die, and das than she could first and second tones. Then, in the spring, German troops goose-stepped through the Ringstrasse, just blocks away from our townhouse. The crowds that greeted them were lusty, adoring, as was I, my schoolboy fantasies of soldiers and guns come to life. My father did not raise his arm but he didn’t stop me from raising mine. That night, in a scene that would soon become commonplace, hoodlums took to the streets, smashing the windows of certain homes and shops. Thereafter, walking to and from school, I passed storefronts marked Jude and Nicht arisches Geschaeft and blocked by baby-faced men in jackboots and flared helmets. As a visible foreigner and part of the diplomatic corps, my father felt undeterred and often went into these stores despite the piercing glares — and once, an arm held stiffly against his chest. For my mother, annexation was yet another rung of descent in a private tragedy. She chided my father for bringing her to a Nazi-occupied country. His answer: Better the Germans than the Japanese.
At the end of October, thousands of Polish-born Jews were rounded up and sent back to Poland. When a seventeen-year-old boy learned that his family was among those languishing at the border, unwanted by either side, he walked into the German Embassy in Paris and pumped five bullets into the viscera of a minor German diplomat. Two days later, Ernst vom Rath died of his wounds. The seething of the Germans, checked so long as their countryman clung to life, would now be unleashed. This was what my father knew when he came home that afternoon.

Editorial Reviews

Jack Wang is a welcome new voice in Canadian letters … [We Two Alone] is serious, engaging, well crafted, thought-provoking. Wang clearly has something to say, and this accomplished collection not only says it but also promises a great deal more to come.

Ormsby Review

Rich and poignant … History lovers and literary buffs will sink joyfully into his moving collection … Wang manages to underscore the importance of cultural heritage while stressing humanity’s common ties … His ability to create vivid and believable settings, in beautiful and readable prose, will deeply move readers.

Winnipeg Free Press

Jack Wang’s extraordinary debut book of stories, We Two Alone, weaves a path across the world, following the Chinese diaspora over nearly a hundred years. It’s the kind of collection that comes along only once in a while, to be savoured by readers for its sharp, smart portraits of longing, connection, and identity.

Open Book

A collection that announces an important new voice in contemporary fiction … Beyond Vancouver, Shanghai, Vienna, Port Elizabeth, and London, the stories in We Two Alone encompass Tallahassee, Los Angeles, and Boston. Wang is committed to rendering his backdrops accurately; with perfectly presented details, he showcases the disharmony of the Chinese diaspora, as individuals endure salient moments in twentieth-century history and more recent times … We Two Alone shows that Jack Wang is a master of the short story, a writer who has mapped his own space, neither Canadian nor American, nor anywhere else. Each episode in this collection is a moving tribute to its characters as well as an indictment of the ostracism that remains when racist taunts and human failures continue to bedevil the modern world.

Literary Review of Canada

In We Two Alone, Jack Wang has written an instantly engaging and achingly poignant collection of stories about people struggling to preserve their way of life and seeking stability, connection, and meaning. Focusing on Chinese immigrant experiences, Wang’s stories range freely and easily across many decades and a dizzyingly assortment of geographies. All of Wang’s characters are vividly rendered, their struggles and agonies richly conceived and indelibly portrayed. The writing throughout is atmospheric, highly visual, and peppered with startling and persuasive detail. Long after finishing it, We Two Alone lingers in the mind as a compassionate work by a profoundly talented writer who cares deeply about what it means to be human in turbulent times.

Danuta Gleed Literary Award Jury Citation

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