Today on the site, we’re thrilled to welcome Grace Kwan, whose debut short story collection, Prelude & Other Stories, which was published by Life Rattle Press on June 1st and contains short stories short stories based on the author’s own life and coming of age as a bisexual Chinese-Malaysian-Canadian immigrant. Grace has provided us with an excerpt, so check out the cover and blurb below, then dig in!
Prelude & Other Stories by Grace Kwan
This collection of short stories transports the reader to the sizzling heat of Kuala Lumpur’s streets, to crimson sunsets at Vancouver’s bayside, and to the drizzly shores at Bible camp. The narrator, a young Chinese-Malaysian-Canadian girl, grapples with a simultaneously claustrophobic and distant relationship with her mother as she navigates her own teenage obstinacy, queer identity in the face of religion, and the universal pursuit of fitting in.
And here’s the excerpt!
People love to tell me about how young and beautiful my mom looks for her age, with her dyed brown hair and dark chocolate eyes—and of course, her dancer’s physique.
“Are you sure you’re not sisters?” they’d ask.
I’ve never paid much attention to the comments, until now. My mother’s beauty strikes me like an epiphany—the way she carries her slender frame across a room, the way she disciplines her thick hair into a ponytail at the nape of her neck every morning, the way her cheekbones sit high and proud on her face.
Once, in the car with a handful of my classmates on our way back from a field trip in grade eight, my friend Bailey and I contemplated life after high school. I couldn’t see myself marrying or having children at all, but Bailey liked the idea of settling down. Jeremiah Crane, sitting beside me, pushed his wire-rimmed glasses up his pimpled nose, ran a bony hand through his orange curls, and announced, “If I were to marry, I’d get an Asian wife.”
“…Why?” I demanded after a long and scandalized silence.
“I don’t know, I just can’t picture anything else. I think their culture just makes them more…gentle, submissive…”
I could see the East Asian woman Jeremiah conjured with his words: demure and fine-boned, with alabaster skin and creases in her eyelids. Bailey, who was Filipino, huffed in disbelief. I stared out the window at the blur of grey asphalt. If I looked at Jeremiah then, I thought I might burst a blood vessel—his or mine, I didn’t know.
I see the two men examining a bouquet of white roses nearby. I want Mom out of their line of sight.
“Are you ready to go?” Mom asks, eyeing the toy Anne hugs to her chest.
“Yeah, yeah,” I mumble, taking the bunny from Anne and shoving it back on one of the shelves. “Let’s go.”
* * *
Grace Kwan is a Sociology MA student at Simon Fraser University. Her articles and personal essays on race, media, and culture can be read on Necessary Fiction, Plenitude Magazine, and other online publications. She’s also a regular contributor for Camp Thirlby.