Susan Blumberg-Kason reviewed Dorothy Chan's BABE this month for Asian Review of Books.
Hong Kong figures both as an early childhood memory and sometimes as a what-if question in Dorothy Chan’s latest poetry collection Babe. What if Chan’s parents had stayed and didn’t take the family to the United States, where Chan was born? What if Chan could grow up with a grandmother who was always around rather than someone she saw just on visits across the ocean?
BABE is about owning the room. It’s about physical touch. It’s about dancing (actually, grinding) on a heart-shaped bed and starring as the leading lady of the film (no matter how risqué it gets). At the core of this collection, the Chinese American speaker questions the conventions around her, dating back to her origin story as a Hong Kongnese child who would get up to stretch in the middle of Cantonese class. As an adult, she questions her fate since the family fortune teller screwed her over with a lazy fortune, yet got her brother’s completely spot-on. She triple sonnets her way through confrontations of queerphobia in her family, the trauma from a past relationship with a significantly older man, and the constant male gaze. She pays homage to the first girls who ever loved her in this analysis of sexuality, queerness, popular culture, and resilience. She’s baby forever.