Mini Review: Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

Posted June 7, 2021 by Angie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

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Mini Review: Bestiary by K-Ming ChangBestiary by K-Ming Chang
Published by One World on September 29, 2020
Genres: Adult Fiction, LGBTQ, Magical Realism
Format: eBook (250 pages)
Source: Library
Purchase: AmazonIndieBound
Add Book: GoodreadsBookhype

Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this blazing debut about one family's queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.

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 afterwards, 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 mysterious 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.


I don’t like Magical Realism. But every time I read a description for one, I think, this is the one! It never is, and Bestiary is no different. I just don’t get it. Bestiary did have me excited from the first chapter because it’s in second person as the mother is telling stories to her daughter. From there it alternates, between her and the daughter (first person). Unfortunately, other than the narrative, I was not into this one at all. I really could not even tell you what this was about other than three generations of women.

Bestiary has a lot of bodily fluids: blood, urine, semen, vomit, poo, all of it. There’s also an awkward fixation on orifices, mainly mouths and anuses. There’s always something going in and something else entirely coming out. They’re also always digging holes and sticking things places. And I’m sure this all had some bigger meaning that my nonliterary brain just could not understand. I was confused the entire time I was reading and it was a relief to reach the end. The best way to describe Bestiary is weird. Perhaps for those of you who do understand Magical Realism will get something out of it.

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