Editors' note: If it is possible to build an action-flick franchise around an archaeology professor, then it can't be hard to build one around Tammy Kim. By day she crusades through Brooklyn lawyering for social justice (low-wage workers' rights and health access for the uninsured). By night she writes poetry, essays, and -- you ready? -- comics. Plus she has been known to pull on her boots and walk onto the Yale and Cooper Union campuses to teach. So who's bidding for the rights, y'all?
In a comically bleak imminent future, GlobalTeens messaging substitutes for real human contact, strangers are judged according to digitized fuckability ratings, and books are stinky artifacts made tolerable by Pine-Sol.
Super Sad True Love Story (Random House 2010) follows the doomed romance of Lenny Abramov, a lonely Russian American who reads Tolstoy the old-fashioned way while working a tech job in Post-Human Services, and Eunice Park, a wayward, twenty-something Korean American beauty from a dysfunctional family. These flawed protagonists guide us through a world facing dual collapse: the end of literacy and conversation, and an America under the thumb of a hegemonic China. Lenny and Eunice tell their story through first-person narration as well as emails and instant messages, the “verballing” equivalents of our present-future.
Asian American readers will be surprised by Shteyngart’s spot-on portrayal of Korean American culture. Eunice is a loyal first-born who takes the LSAT, protects her evangelical mother from her father’s abuses, and monitors her sister’s end-times activism. But she also has a rebellious streak that drives her toward ill-conceived romance and political entanglements. Shteyngart attributes his familiarity with this Korean American microcosm to his years at Manhattan’s Asian-dominated Stuyvesant High School, his Korean American fiancée, and his mentor Chang-Rae Lee. Absurdistan fans will not be disappointed: Shteyngart has written a layered, memorable third novel that speaks to the endurance of language, humor, and love in dark times.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!