Michael Chin’s novel, My Grandfather’s an Immigrant, and So Is Yours (Cowboy Jamboree, 2021) is an enchanting coming-of-age story about an Asian boy attempting to understand what happiness is. The story begins with that very question, and the narrator recounts his youth in a small town as a means to grasp at that concept. As most of the book doesn’t directly focus on answering what happiness means, it seems an odd choice to start on. However, the memories of his childhood ultimately build towards an answer, one that is presented in a manner that makes it specific to the narrator, and yet may be applied to those who don’t share his experiences. Overtly, the narrator is interrogating the idea of happiness, but his memories bring up other important considerations such as race relations in America and the American Dream. For example, the narrator’s high school friend group creates a countdown to a day dedicated to themselves, which is advertised throughout the school. As that day approaches, under suspicion of a bomb plot or similar horrifying act, his friend group is called to the principal’s office. When that meeting closed, the narrator realizes, “By virtue of the color of our hair and skin, we made Boil Crew a threat […] Nothing we said would defuse the situation.” The matter-of-fact tone in which the narrator talks about these topics only leaves room for discussion when he expresses doubts, which is far and few. Although it’s clear that he doesn’t hold all of the answers, he’s self-assured in what he does know (or thinks that he knows) and isn’t afraid to relay that to the readers. A feature of Chin’s writing is his use of second person, which defies the expectation that prose novels only use first or third person. Chin makes it clear that when he uses second person, he is referencing the narrator’s college girlfriend, so it’s unconfusing in regard to who “you” is referring to. It’s still a jarring experience nevertheless, even though second person is used rather sparingly in comparison to the length of the book. This is especially true because, at the beginning of the story, there isn’t anything to prepare readers for an unusual use of perspective. As the majority of the novel is directed towards a general outsider audience, the instances of second person, for the most part, tend to distract from the main plot. However, by the end of the novel, I had accepted the use of second person, most likely due to the directness of the narrator. My Grandfather’s an Immigrant, and So Is Yours is ultimately a heart-warming story, despite some of its more serious topic matter. Rarely do we see a story that speaks candidly about current events and yet doesn’t despair about the state of affairs. Straightforwardly, a story that seeks happiness’s origins bends towards happiness itself, and not in a desperate chase towards it. It’s an optimistic breath of fresh air in its genre. *** Disclaimer: an advance reader copy of this novel was provided in return for an honest review. Order MY GRANDFATHER’S AN IMMIGRANT, AND SO IS YOURS by Michael Chin here: http://www.cowboyjamboreemagazine.com/books.html
Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at bethpeddle.com and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram
Jay Sapinski (they/them) is a reader and writer from the Chicagoland area. They are currently an undergraduate student at George Mason University pursuing a BA in English with a concentration in creative writing. They are a part of Volition, George Mason University’s undergraduate literary magazine. Jay writes in all genres of creative writing, but they specialize in fiction. As of now, they are working on pieces exploring love and death.