Revenge of the Asian Woman
In Dorothy Chan’s new poems watch how the boys and girls of a materialist world depend on destruction (even of the earth) as the price of vision. This is a particle acceleration of the human heart, of shiny attractions that are mysteriously transmitted out of abstraction into our world—here desire organizes culture, one tracking the other in a wilderness that is increasingly desperate for perfection. Of course, she says, we are what we eat! This is a very very important book.
— Norman Dubie
Dorothy Chan's mind is a banquet, a smorgasbord, a feast of oysters, caviar, cocktails, sexual investigation, and late-night bacchanals. Like Odysseus she is at the prow of her poetic ship of odes and sonnets, and with a fearless voice navigates through the sirens of 21st century peril. This is an all-you-can-eat buffet of wild abandon, a curious over-caffeinated woman plowing into the night of pop culture delirium. Be prepared to enter a world where Judy Jetson and Liberace tango with Aphrodite and Parmigianino's Madonna. Chan says, "Asian girls have that thing going on," and you may think you know what she means, but believe me, you have no idea what this poetic tsunami will unleash on your shores.
— Barbara Hamby
Here to snatch you into a frenzied, messy, riotous joy, the poems in Dorothy Chan’s collection flash and spin and buzz, a cyclone of imagery and formal play. A Fury in the middle of a John Hughes film, “a freak everywhere,” Chan’s speaker tears through the scenery: all pop and porn and “abs abs abs,” daytime soaps, boba tea in Kowloon, and “Technicolor Xanadu”; then quiets to reveal (“your grandparents worked at a pajama stand/ in Mong Kok”; or “two anime girls...sneaking a kiss/ in the rose bushes of the Catholic boarding school”; or how “one day, saying goodbye to your/ pet goose—you ran down the road/ and into a circus tent”) longing pulsing the center of each moment. Writing “Dad thinks my forehead is too Godzilla,” Chan pops the top, exposing a vast cache: the poetics of “a grown ass woman.” “...[A]nd you know I’m not some Fay Wray,” these poems declare boldly, “who screams at the sight of a hand.” Revenge of the Asian Woman translates itself into a dizzyingly lush and empowered excess. Revenge is “lavender religieuse and Ispahans,” “whipped plum ice cream,” “what potato chips taste like on Saturn.” Revenge is “I don’t have time to be someone else’s biographer.” Revenge is beautiful.
— Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
About the Author
Dorothy Chan is the author of Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018) and the chapbook Chinatown Sonnets (New Delta Review, 2017). She was a 2014 finalist for the Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Academy of American Poets, The Cincinnati Review, The Common, Diode Poetry Journal, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. Chan is the Editor of The Southeast Review. Visit her website at dorothypoetry.com.
About the Collection
“Who doesn’t think kissing is the greatest thing / in the world other than eating?” Revenge of the Asian Woman comes to life on a sexed-up soap opera / B-movie platter where passion and food and fantasy reign supreme: excess in the form of full odes and triple sonnets with towers of macarons and carnival desserts and Hong Kong street food on a skewer—and make it a double.
The East Asian girl boss takes her revenge on those who have fetishized her, looking great in gold booty shorts, because “If I played roller derby, my name would be Yellow Fever, / knocking out all those white boys from college / who used to whisper sweet nothings to me // in Mandarin.” She narrates her parents’ love story, the Chinese-American immigrant dream, her eastern zodiac fate, and her own sexual awakening. Revenge comes to life with scenes that mimic the movies: the speaker’s father as a young boy in Hong Kong running into a circus tent, winning a rice eating contest; young lovers in LA at 3 in the morning; and a forehead that is “too Godzilla, too Tarzan / too Wonder Woman”—scenes of a Chinese American experience, one in which the female speaker is “ready for takeoff,” while paying homage to her heritage: a grandmother who wants to buy her all the jade and gold in the world, a younger cousin who thinks she’s had a hundred boyfriends, and a grandfather who watches Hong Kong soaps with her.
Revenge of the Asian Woman is really about “it,” whether that “it” is the It girl, the It trend, or that ineffable feeling you have in “LA, 3 AM, the wind in your hair, down to your / breasts, braless under a low-v dress, / stroking the driver who’s your lover.” This collection presents plenty of longing for those fleeting moments, regardless if those moments are the speaker’s first sexual awakening in “Ode to the First Boy Who Made Me Feel It”; the mother recounting her favorite childhood show about a family trying to reunite in “Triple Sonnet for Autoerotica”; or the nostalgia that’s presented with references to '80s teen films starring Andrew McCarthy, Liberace’s reign of Las Vegas, or “an appliance / that would deliver food from any part of the world—any part of the universe” from The Jetsons.
And with all this sex and food and longing, Revenge of the Asian Woman is above all, a fun romp. Let’s have a little Liberace-Las-Vegas-fun along the way with the glitz and glamour and kitsch of Japanese love hotels, B-movie starring Asian girls traveling to Mars, and total fantasy fulfillment as our dreams and nightmares come to life. The Asian woman conquers all, having her cake and eating it too—“Oh, cut that cake again.”
Select Poems from Revenge of the Asian Woman
- “Triple Sonnet for Good Boys, Grandma’s Cookies, and Girls with their Cream Cheese and Lox” & “Ode to Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, Judy Jetson, and the Sixties Version of the Future," Diode Poetry Journal | 11th Anniversary Issue
- “Ode to the Most Beautiful Neck Alive” & “Where Are All the Hot Pilots: Thank You, Mrs. Guan,” Oxidant|Engine | Iss. 5
Awards & Honors
- 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist
- 2020 Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye Finalist