Jenny Zhang’s Female Gaze

Sour Heart author talks to Karen Cheung about epic domesticity and the politics of taste

Days before Jenny Zhang’s scheduled readings in Hong Kong, I stumbled upon a list she had curated of her favorite things on the internet: it was, I’m sure, the only time I’ll ever see our homegirl Faye Wong on a list with Frank O’Hara. I find out from the same article that Zhang has a habit of texting her friends during poetry readings: “HELP SOS CALL 911 ALERT THE COAST GUARDS GET ME OUTTA HERE.” Sometimes she does this at her own readings. Zhang’s poems struck me as best experienced not live but on the page: there are short forms, lowercases, punctuation marks gone awry, poetic misspellings, as if you were reading the intimate diary of an unsettlingly wise and eloquent teenager. With her sweet, gooey voice and once-pastel colored hair, you’re almost tempted to think of her as a manic pixie dream girl. Except you don’t.


After Occupy

In poetry, Karen Cheung connects with Hong Kong’s protests


my screen erupted into a grey mist

but my eyes did not water

eight hours and 9562 kilometres away


“pepper sprayed is no credential” the poet wrote,

two years later, same city different protest

i made sure the world knows i was pepper sprayed,

            (for i did not hear the people sing.)



Speak My Language

Hong Kong Voices in Dung Kai-cheung’s Cantonese Love Stories – reviewed by Karen Cheung

The residents of Hong Kong were treated to a range of celebrations in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of the handover last July: road blockages to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping, a fireworks display blurred by rainstorms, and promises of prosperity amid countless clashes between police and protesters. We had no say in the festivities, just as we had no say in the handover.

Around the same time, Penguins Specials released its inaugural series on Hong Kong, including Dung Kai-cheung’s Cantonese Love Stories: Twenty-Five Vignettes of a City. For a book published in conjunction with the anniversary of the handover, it is devoid of references to it. These stories, written in 1998 and 1999 and newly translated from the Cantonese by Bonnie S. McDougall and Anders Hansson, portray a post-handover lifestyle, but never outrightly acknowledge this.