The seventeen stories in Nancy Au’s debut collection present the challenges facing characters whose inner and outer lives often do not align, whose spirits attempt flight despite dashed hopes and lean circumstances. Marginalized by race, age, and sexuality, they endeavor to create new worlds that honor their identities and their Chinese heritage.
In the title story, Sophie Chu dresses daily in her increasingly shabby elephant costume to ensure her missing parents recognize her upon their return. In “The Unfed,” a village elder seeks to revive, with her dimming magic, a mountain community struck by tragedy. “Louise” follows, with deceptive hilarity (involving a one-eyed duck), the nuanced give and take between Mary Zhou and Lai, dissimilar yet passionate partners considering parenthood. The volume also offers sparkling speculative work that taps into the strength of nature—fox spirits and fire beetles, swollen rivers and rippling clouds—to showcase the sometimes surreal transformations of Au’s protagonists.
Spider Love Song and Other Stories treads the fault line that forms between lovers, family, friends, and culture, exposing injuries and vulnerabilities, but also the strength and courage necessary to recast resentment and anger into wonder and power. Au’s lyrical style, humor, and tender attention to her characters’ fancies and failings make this powerful debut a delight to read.
180 pp., 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
ISBN 978–1-946724–20–5 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-946724-21-2 (e-book)
PRAISE FOR SPIDER LOVE SONG AND OTHER STORIES
Longlisted for the 2020 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Short Story Collection
Listed by Entropy Magazine as among the Best Fiction Books of 2019
Resonant, nuanced, and profound. —Foreword Reviews (starred)
Only a writer who knows how closely bound are heartbreak and resilience could write stories as emotionally stirring as these. —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Au’s unpredictable cast has embodied far-ranging history, cultures, locations and genres, with irreverently engaging results. —Shelf Awareness
If you listen carefully to Spider Love Song, you might find a place between hearing and imagination, invisibility and wonder–possibly the sound, similar to that of pages turning, of a different kind of small creature suddenly growing wings and remembering what it was like to struggle in the dark, and somehow able to remember both states at once. —Lambda Literary
Tender and strange, startling and lyrical, each story in this extraordinary debut collection invokes, like a poem, a deep unsayable that draws heartbreakingly close and can almost be touched. Au’s characters are rare and subversive in their multidimensionality, traversing the Chinese diaspora in subtle, complex, and magical ways, all sharing in the intimate condition of being waylaid by the world. Every sentence and image feels sculpted out of clay—careful, astonishing, and wondrously impressed with the fingerprints of their creator. —Jennifer S. Cheng, author of House A and Moon: Letters, Maps, Poems
The lush and vibrant world of Nancy Au’s Spider Love Song and Other Stories is teeming with somnambulist fathers, one-eyed duck children, dreams of an all Chinese American Atlantis, storytelling fox spirits, orphans seeking the cure for grief and more. Darkly funny at times and always profound, Au’s imagination lends us magic to feel our way through what it means to be queer, Chinese American, indebted to our mothers and ancestors, and always longing for something more. —Muriel Leung, author of Bone Confetti
Nancy Au writes about badass women, women born as damselfly nymphs in China who become grounded, wingless, in America, mothers and daughters and grandmothers who are sex, who are power, who are sarcastic beasts, who are us. Spider Love Song and Other Stories is a collection like no other. Read it and marvel. —May-lee Chai, author of Useful Phrases for Immigrants: Stories and Dragon Chica: A Novel.
Foxes, turtles, ducks, oysters, fish, badgers, beetles, damselflies, bees: all manner of creatures scratch, swim, thrum, and shimmer through these tender and fantastic stories. Characters struggle with the entanglements of the living and the dead, like the “spiders’ webs [that] can wind around anything that doesn’t pay attention,” while they long to be out in the world that both compels and terrifies. I was spellbound by Au’s unique vision and language that pay attention to the many wild, rich worlds that hold us. —Peg Alford Pursell, author of A Girl Goes into the Forest
These stories sparkle with life and secrets, joy and power, pain and hilarity and sharp insights into the human heart. Nancy Au is a rare and blazing talent, and this debut collection is a house of wonders, thrilling and unforgettable. —Carolina De Robertis, author of Cantoras
Every story in Spider Love Song feeds the imagination and the soul. Without apology and with big love, Au gives her characters their full humanity—these people are delightful, ferocious, funny, tender. Readers will await her next book. —Nona Caspers, author of The Fifth Woman