BOOK STEW REVIEW: ‘Days of Distraction’ by Alexandra Chang

Below is the latest Book Stew Review from Eileen MacDougall, the host of the 80+ episodes of Book Stew, a 30-minute video and podcast devoted to writing in all forms, featuring authors, playwrights, voice artists, and journalists.

‘Days of Distraction’ by Alexandra Chang

This lovely novel/memoir is part of a new trend where authors feature themselves and real people in their writing but call it a novel (to avoid being scrupulously fact-checked — memoirs must be all truth) — and this one works beautifully.

Alexandra Chang writes for a magazine in San Francisco, and her longtime boyfriend has just accepted a post doc position at Cornell in Ithaca, NY, far from their Davis, CA hometown and far from his first choice of universities.

Everything that follows tests the survival of their relationship, including an intense and descriptive cross country drive. Alexandra, who is Chinese-American, is seemingly suddenly aware of her ethnic status in relation to the upbringing amongst whites, and to the pairings of Asian women/white men that seem to be so common.

She also threads the story of Yamei Kin, one of the first Chinese doctors licensed in America, into the narrative.

Alexandra’s father has lived in China on and off throughout her life, and in the final chapters, she leaves Ithaca to visit him there, not knowing if she’ll return. The entire book is told from her point of view and consists primarily of her musings about her work, family, and boyfriend, and it’s a delightfully poignant journey, filled with discoveries and decisions.

Quotes: “Not all of us are lucky enough to get to choose how the word defines us.”

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