The Beginning of a Great Career
'Quiet As They Come' is a wonderful book of related short stories by a former Hedgebrook resident Angie Chau
Wednesday, October 06, 2010 5:50 AM
Angie Chau, who was raised in Santa Rosa, Calif. and graduated from University of California at Berkeley, lived and worked on Kauai and in Italy before returning to University of California at Davis to earn a master of fine arts degree in creative writing.
Chau's heritage is Vietnamese and because her parents were on our side during the Vietnam War (called The American War by the Vietnamese) she spent a brief part of her early childhood in Asian transit before her parents landed in Northern California.
"Quiet as They Come" tells her (fictional) family's stories in a series of biting, poignant and sometimes bitterly funny short stories.
Chau's early fiction focuses on the struggles successful (in Vietnam) adults have trying to adjust to a new country, a new culture and a new, usually greatly reduced social status. The stories progress and some of the later work features the teenage children of the aforementioned immigrants.
Chau, who is in her mid-30s, is that creative creature all real artists are familiar with -- the overnight success who has been working hard for more than 10 years to get this book written, rewritten and then published by a reputable house.
I don't know how she feels about it, but to this reader it was worth the wait.
The fiction in "Quiet as They Come" is a gripping picture of folks trying to negotiate two cultures in the San Francisco Bay Area. The stories take place from the early '80s up to the present day.
All of the stories are wonderful but I have my favorites. The second story in the collection, "The Pussycats," is sad, brutal and darkly witty with a mid-take surprise that will take your breath away if you're giving this story your full attention.
In addition to clever storytelling and believable characters, Chau has the ability to fill in her fiction's backgrounds with wonderful, pithy, pawky observations of things we all could see but usually don't. I believe it was Henry James who said a good writer is someone "on whom nothing is lost." That certainly describes Chau.
You don't have to take my word for it. Her book features rave-review blurbs from Pam Houston, author of the best-selling collection "Cowboys are My Weakness" and from Sandra Cisneros, "The House on Mango Street," among others.
"Quiet As They Come" is the first salvo in what should be a very successful literary career.
"Quiet As They Come" is published in an oversized trade paperback first edition by Ig Publishing, Brooklyn.
Chau will read from "Quiet As The Come," at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 9, at Elliott Bay Books.