NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW EDITORS’ CHOICE • Three generations of Taiwanese American women are haunted by the myths of their homeland in this spellbinding, visceral debut about one family’s queer desires, violent impulses, and buried secrets.
“Gorgeous and gorgeously grotesque . . . Every line of this sensuous, magical-realist marvel is utterly alive.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
FINALIST FOR THE LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE VCU CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY O: The Oprah Magazine • NPR • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews
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 afterward, 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 strange 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.
Praise for Bestiary
“[A] vivid, fabulist debut . . . the prose is full of imagery. Chang’s wild story of a family’s tenuous grasp on belonging in the U.S. stands out with a deep commitment to exploring discomfort with the body and its transformations.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
K-Ming Chang was born in the year of the tiger. She is a Kundiman Fellow and a Lambda Literary Award finalist in poetry. Her poems have been anthologized in Ink Knows No Borders, Best New Poets 2018, Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, the 2019 Pushcart Prize Anthology, and elsewhere. Raised in California, she now lives in New York.
“Full of magic realism that reaches down your throat, grabs hold of your guts and forces a slow reckoning with what it means to be a foreigner, a native, a mother, a daughter—and all the things in between.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Bestiary blurs the lines between humans and animals, exploring the stories we tell about ourselves to survive.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Chang's facility for making even mundane or traumatic events beautiful with words is a reminder that stories are, among other things, some of our very best survival tools.”—NPR
“Bestiary bursts open like delicious fruit. . . . Her lyrical imagery promises a better future, and Bestiary promises more great work to come from K-Ming Chang.”—Los Angeles Times
“Young queer love, family secrets, and a girl who grows a tiger tail, all told by a language obsessive? Extremely sold.”—LitHub
“K-Ming Chang, an extremely talented young Taiwanese-American author, offers a wild portrait of three generations of women who have in them tigers, snakes, and birds: the myths of their homeland.”—The Millions
“Epic and intimate at once, Bestiary brings myth to visceral life. K-Ming Chang’s talent exposes what is hidden inside us. She makes magic on the page.”—Julia Philips, author of Disappearing Earth
“I didn’t read this novel so much as become immersed in it, a jungle filled with surprises, countless moments of desire and pain and light.”—Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown
“Chang is ferociously talented, one of my favorite new writers. Here is a book so wise, so gripping, so mythical and dangerous, so infused with surreal beauty, it burns to be read, and read again.”—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
“Crafted at the scale of epic poetry . . . These are fables I wish I’d had growing up.”—Elaine Castillo, author of America Is Not the Heart
“An unflinching examination of unbreakable ties. You may want to look away, but K-Ming Chang won’t let you.”—Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes
“This searing, lush novel can’t be justly summarized—you must read it yourself, for K-Ming Chang is a fearless, singular talent.”—Shawna Yang Ryan, author of Green Island
“Fierce and funny, full of magic and grit . . . truly remarkable.”—Tash Aw, author of We, the Survivors
“A worthy heir to Maxine Hong Kingston, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, and Jamaica Kincaid, K-Ming Chang is a woman warrior for the twenty-first century—part oracle, part witness, all heart.”—Jennifer Tseng, author of Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness