The soft, fable-like quality of the narration of a loving but dysfunctional Chinese-American family in ‘Mott Street’ disappeared when I read these lines, a few paragraphs into the story: They had yet to question why the bones of a fish could look like the bones of a kite. They had not known to wonder how far to look back in history for the connection. Instead, the three children raced up the stairs to the window to count the black cars that lined Mosco Street for funerals four times a week, because Pinetree said that the more black cars there were, the more that dead person was loved.Xuan Juliana Wang tunes the once-ancient and untouchable aura of family life involving young children into a register that is at once more foreboding and astute in its detail. The rest of the story follows suit, and includes an unexpectedly poignant detour into the Asian Carp crisis.
Juliana Wang’s voice is unforgettable. If I ever made my own version of Sei Shonagon’s list of ‘things that quicken the heart’, I would include this story without a thought.
First published in Gulf Coast, Spring 2019. Collected in Home Remedies, Hogarth, May 2019. Read it online here