Book Review | Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

Synopsis: Ingrid Yang, a PhD student in modernist literature is trying and failing to put together her final dissertation piece on the revered Chinese American poet, Xiao Wen Chou, a poet she never wanted to study in the first place. Amidst her academic woes, she stumbles upon a ground-breaking secret, one that balloons into a full-fledged campus scandal, threatening to shake the very foundations of the otherwise becoming Barnes University.

Disorientation reads like a tongue-in-cheek satire novel, but behind the sardonic façade exists a complex web of meaningful commentary. Think Don’t Look Up but in a literary setting with much more Asian American representation and a less dire ending.

Chou is very intentional with her writing. It’s hard not to be drawn in by the eloquent way in which she writes about literature and poetry from the initial pages. I was immediately transfixed. But once the scandal breaks out, Chou’s writing takes on a sharpness that almost mimics the tumult of the plot. The prose becomes interspersed with different writing styles, from essays about modern day colonialism to documentary transcripts to playwriting. It might seem chaotic but I enjoyed the dynamism of this literary mishmash.

Also intriguing about this consciousness-awakening caper, is its use of characterisation. Chou leverages her characters as symbols which represent different groups in society.

Click here to read the full review on LoveReading UK. You will also be able to purchase of the book where 25% of the cover price will be given to a school of your choice to buy more books.

Full disclosure: I will receive a small commission if you decide to purchase.


This edition was published in the U.K. by Picador Proof (2022) Originally published in 2022 by Penguin Press.

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