2023-01-24 10:00:17

Book Review: The Chinese Groove, by Kathryn Ma.

Logo The New York Times
The New York Times
By Scaachi Koul

In Kathryn Mas new novel, The Chinese Groove, an overly optimistic Chinese man migrates to America to find connection and success. It doesnt go as planned.


You need optimism to become an immigrant in America. Frankly, you need a lot of other things too: money, luck, employment, maybe a family connection. The protagonist in Kathryn Mas latest novel, The Chinese Groove, however, has only a few of these essentials when he leaves China and lands at his distant cousin Teds doorstep in San Francisco at just 18. Zheng Xue Li, or Shelley as he becomes known in the United States, has no plan, no cash and no place to stay after his two weeks at his cousins are up. But youve got to give him this: He believes in his own American dream, that anyone can get lucky if they just work hard enough.

Shelley arrives stateside with three goals in mind. First, Id like to get better acquainted with our American relatives. Second, Ill find a pretty Chinese American wife. And, third, of course, Im going to make a lot of money. Back in Yunnan Province, Shelley has left his father, who worked hard to finance his sons emigration and is still grieving the death of Shelleys mother. At home, the aunties had so much to say about cousin Ted. Ted, a Chinese American, is married to a Jewish woman and works as an unremarkable ghostwriter a far cry from what the stories the aunties told Shelley about Ted running a glamorous and highly profitable department store. Shelley arrives in the States believing the aunties tall tales about his cousins wealth and status, and hes only briefly disappointed when he uncovers the truth. The groove, he believes, is still there no matter what.

Continue read on nytimes.com

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