Sunday, May 3, 2015

Short Story Sunday

Paper Menagerie 

by Ken Liu

Summary From GoodReads

A gentle fantasy. Love, paper tigers, mail order bride, culture clash.

This story starts with a young boy of a mixed race family, an American father and a Chinese mother, who didn’t speak English.  The mother made several origami animals for her son, the first of which was a tiger.  When she breathed into them to inflate the animals to their proper size she blew life into them.  The story follows the little boy as he grows into an adult and it focuses on the relationship between him and his mother.

This is one of my favorite stories.  Ken Liu is an amazing author and knows exactly how to pull on your heartstrings.  I love how real the boy is, how he succumbs to peer pressure and tries his hardest to be “normal” before finally coming into himself.  I also love how Liu doesn’t artificially try to make things better for the main character; the people he surrounds himself with are not overly encouraging, there is no token best friend that makes everything okay.  It’s about solely about a boy who is at one with himself until he starts to be aware of how he is viewed by those around him and how he comes to term with his past and who he is.  It’s so realistic, substitute the magical origami animals and Quingming for anything that is culturally specific, and voila this story has played out among countless children growing up in a culture vastly different from their parents.

I first listened to this story on PodCastle, Rajan Khanna does an excellent job narrating.  I highly recommend a listen!

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