Cover Image: Cinema Love

Cinema Love

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Member Reviews

Jiaminig Tang's Cinema Love is a tour de force. I found myself invested in the characters' stories and rooting for each of them. Heartbreaking and peppered with humor, Cinema Love is not to be missed..

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Cinema Love has been one of my most anticipated debuts for 2024. Tang is a queer immigrant debut novelist who holds an MFA from the University of Alabama and a 2022 Center for Fiction emerging writer who delivered an incredible character-driven literary fiction book for your summer stacks.

This heart-aching story chronicles the relationship between Bao Mei and Old Second, who are not necessarily in love but begin their married life in rural China.

Old Second finds relationships and love at a rundown cinema, where Bao carefully guards the ticket booth, keeping the secrets of each person who buys a ticket there. Many a disgruntled wife comes in search of her husband only to be turned away by Bao, but there is a reason she feels called to this role and the people who inhabit the dark corners of this place.

When Old Second finds love, Tang's searing description of the affair nearly took my breath away: "Theirs is the kind of love that can change the weather. A radio forecast predicting rain switches its tune the moment Old Second sees Shun-Er."

But when tragedy strikes, those involved become haunted by what they did and did not do, which could have changed the trajectory of the tragedies that spill upon the pages.

This novel is the perfect literary fiction book to sink your teeth into both cinematic in its setting and Tang's magnificent writing.

Readers should know that Tang does not gloss over many horrific elements of homophobia, asking the reader to confront what was happening in the past. Tang smartly brings the story full circle in many ways during the pandemic as they navigate New York, showcasing racism rampant during this time with another jarring scene with a perspective that made me cry.

The cast of characters is vast, and the rhythm of the voices felt confusing at times, but I found this book worth the journey experience offered. The novel explores contradictions between communities of people, but even more the contradictions within ourselves.

While I hate to compare this to A Little Life, as people have such strong reactions to this book's themes, the range of this story, felt similarly built but with additional layers through the immigrant experience and offering an #ownvoices perspective.

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Cinema Love by Jiaming Tang is a captivating exploration of love, passion, and the magic of cinema. Tang's eloquent prose effortlessly transports readers into the enchanting world of the silver screen, where characters come alive and emotions run deep. Through the lens of the protagonist's journey, Tang masterfully weaves together themes of romance, identity, and the power of storytelling. The vivid descriptions of iconic movie scenes and the palpable chemistry between the characters evoke a sense of nostalgia and longing, creating a truly immersive reading experience. With its engaging plot twists and heartfelt moments, "Cinema Love" is a heartfelt ode to the transformative nature of love and the enduring allure of cinema. Tang's unique voice and keen insight make this novel a must-read for anyone who appreciates the magic of storytelling and the universal language of love.

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5 stars

I both eagerly anticipated this read and wrung my hands most times when I thought about it because I knew I'd love the content and that it would still hurt to read. All of the hypotheses were correct. This is a beautiful book, but - and this is the point - it's also a painful reminder of how some parts of our lives and ourselves are inescapable, even decades later.

Old Second, who now has one of my favorite character names of all time, and Bao Mei, a traditional appearing het married couple, are anything but. They're married, but more so in a mutually beneficial partnership than what may come to mind otherwise. They're initially both drawn to the Workers' Cinema, which is a front for queer men. Old Second could be his true self here, and Bao Mei takes on a different role, as a kind of protector of the men and their (by force) secrets.

Of course, though there's a facade of safety and protection associated with the theater, the stakes are high, and the center cannot hold. It turns out that this center - the basis for all of Old Second's and Bao Mei's actions - *also* cannot hold. Over many years, they both question their decisions and outcomes, and this process is both challenging and arresting to read.

Existence is so painful so frequently, and while there is not necessarily a reprieve from that fact here, there is so much resilience and compassion out there, too. This is a longstanding narrative about all of these conditions and more, and I loved it. I can't wait to read more from this author.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this incredible book.

Ultimately a story of confronting history, immigration, and forgiveness, this is one that will stick with me for a long time. Jumping between Chinatown, NYC in 2020 during the pandemic and rural Fuzhou, China in the 1980s, we are witnesses to the interconnected stories of peoples’ immigration experiences. These experiences are all kickstarted by the brutal raid and demolition of a workers’ cinema in Mawei, Fuzhou that acted as a safe haven for queer men. I think the description of this book: one of gay men and the women who love them, is perfect. It is true that the women are the backbone of this story; they carry the capacity for strength and resilience, as well as prejudice that they must overcome.

As each of the characters overcome grief, guilt, and disappointment, they are also adapting to living in America without any support except for each other.

This book felt so personal and intimate as it recollects these characters’ lives, navigating discussions of queerness, acceptance, survivor’s guilt, and the immigrant experience. This is one I’ll recommend forever.

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Very interesting premise. I struggled with the changing timeline at times, but the writing was strong and the characters transcended the page. Valuable story and history showcased here.

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Spanning multiple years and settings, this is a tender, visceral story about love and all sides of complicated relationships. Each character is written so vividly that it is the simplest thing to empathize with all of them and want all of them to be happy, even when they act at cross purposes to others. The way that other people can be the greatest source of pain and/or support in life is well-demonstrated, in addition to the effects of individual actions and interactions, and the consequences of concealing guilt, secrets, and the truth (even from yourself). I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a story about queer love and its history, the Chinese immigrant experience, and complex characters with rich backstories.

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Amazing! 5 stars! I love that you got to see both perspectives of the MMC and their wives. Heartbreaking, moving, and honest!

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This book is beautiful and heartbreaking. It shows the loneliness of not being able to love the person you want to love. This book will stick with me forever.

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This was a great debut novel that focuses on the queer relationships between men in China who's only place to meet other men and have some sort of chance at a relationship was a cinema in Mawei called the Worker's Cinema. The story follows a cast of characters both men and women as they navigate their relationships and the secrets their partners hide. A majority of the story takes place in the US ranging from the 80s to present day and the immigrant experience is detailed and given so much life and understanding for the reader. There was a part towards the end where one of the characters is preparing to leave the house and the author did an incredible job of describing the thought process and fears that someone who has a language barrier might experience when going out into the world and not knowing what to expect and he doesn't know if they'll be hostile or not simply by his presence on the street as both an immigrant and as a gay man. The only criticism I have is that the book felt a bit long and did drag in certain parts but all in all, the story kept my interest and I kept coming back to learn what would become of our characters.

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This novel has an intriguing premise and builds the characters with care and empathy. But, the plot and switching timelines left me a bit wanting.

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Cinema Love is a captivating narrative that delves into the lives of Old Second, his wife Bao Mei, and a myriad of interconnected characters, as they traverse the journey from post-socialist China to modern-day New York City. The story masterfully unfolds, highlighting the profound impact of the Worker's Cinema on their lives and the intimate relationships that blossomed among men who found solace and love in the movie screens.

The author, Tang, possesses an enchanting writing style that draws readers into the intricate world of these characters. As we delve deeper into their lives, we are introduced to Old Second and Bao Mei, as well as the enigmatic Yan Hua and her fascinating circle of friends and loved ones. Tang's narrative offers a mesmerizing exploration of their interconnected lives, gradually revealing the intricate web that binds them together.

While the story may seem to meander at times, it ultimately offers a deeply emotional and thought-provoking experience. The lush and unassuming prose occasionally leaves one questioning the precise chronological order of events. However, it becomes evident that the story's essence lies not in the specific timeline but in the rich tapestry of emotions and connections that unravel as the narrative progresses.

Cinema Love transcends its initial premise, becoming a tale of love and loss, immigration, and the powerful bonds that unite us all. I extend my gratitude to NetGalley and Dutton for providing the opportunity to read this exceptional book in advance.

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A deeply empathetic insight into the Chinese-American diaspora. It is beautifully written and made me look at things such as immigration, language barriers, and especially LGBT+ issues in different communities in new ways.

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Cinema Love tells the story of Old Second, his wife, Bao Mei, and a host of interconnected characters, from their time in post-socialist China to modern day New York City. Specifically, it slowly showcases how all of their lives were touched and influenced by the Worker's Cinema and the men who found love and intimacy together in front of its movie screens.

Tang's writing is, in a word, addictive. Through Tang's prose, we are offered glimpses into the lives of Old Second and Bao Mei, along with Yan Hua and her incredibly intriguing group of friends and loved ones. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this story, but Tang took us on a sort of meandering yet poignant stroll through the characters lives while carefully revealing how they are all connected to one another. For my own part, while the writing was both lush and unassuming, I sometimes got lost in when, exactly, in the timeline a scene was taking place. In the end, it's not really the timeline itself that mattered, so much as the entirety of the story when it all came together.

Cinema Love is really a much larger story than just what is offered in its synopsis. It is a story of love and loss, of immigration, of connection. Thank you to NetGalley and Dutton for the ARC of this book.

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This was a great literary fiction book. I don't often find myself gravitating towards historical fiction but this piqued my interest. Tang is an excellent writer and I am look forward to reading more of their books in the future!

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A complex story that revolves around a set of inter-connected characters, each with their own story and emotions: grief, loneliness, shame, sadness, desire. There is a lot to absorb here: the shame and oppression that gay me are subjected to in China and the U.S., the loveless marriages that their wives tolerate, emigrating to the U.S. and living in poverty while trying to survive and stay under the radar. A difficult story to read but wonderful writing and language.

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intricate, ornate, beautiful, fragile. this novel was like a gorgeous crystal. i loved the plot, the characters, everything. thanks for the arc.

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This a beautifully written novel that portrays the nuance and complexities of all different types of love. A great balance of plot and character development that felt very realistic and engaging.

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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the early review copy!

I’ve seen <i>Cinema Love</i> often described in reviews as ‘soft’ and ‘tender’ and I would agree - it feels delicate. It’s ornate crystal that could easily shatter. But it has a lot of power, hidden power, and the end result is a smart and touching look at a cinema in rural China in the ‘80s that was a cruising spot for (mostly) closeted married men. And the women they married. And the ways these women deal with their men deceiving them.

Were the deceits malicious? It can be a hard question answer.

This is a novel that deals in shades of gray.

I was reminded of last year’s <i>Monstrilio</i> as far as the writing style went: short and punchy and so smart, exploring the lives of characters the reader might not necessarily love but can understand. Whereas that book was horror (or, at least, horror-adjacent), <i>Cinema Love</i> is not so grotesque and fits best in the literary genre.

What a great start to my reading year!

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Wow. Cinema Love is Jiaming Tang's debut novel; as an epic spanning decades across rural China to New York, Tang truly wrote something special. Cinema Love is about gay men in rural China, who meet and find love and sex at a run-down theater. Flashing between different timelines, Tang also examines the lives of the women who marry these men, and how their lives intertwined in the different counties.

I was honestly blown away by Cinema Love. Tang has such a beautiful command of the prose; even when the words themselves are ugly, it's so deliberate and vivid in the imagery. Even between the timelines and multiple characters perspectives, there is never a moment of unintentional confusion or a moment where the reader gets lost. There is so much love and care poured into his novel, it rolls off every single page.

Each character was treated delicately and I loved the way everyone was introduced; even the more unlikable ones were shown to the reader in an earnest manner. Their flaws were open and exposed, feeling raw and real.

I was blown away. The amount of raw emotion packed into Cinema Love was incredible—I'm honestly still reeling from how fantastic it was. I also just so appreciated that despite the heavy grief, shame, and struggles that Cinema Love explored, there was an equal amount of love, light, and hope within it all.

It's not the easiest of reads, mostly due to the subject matter, but I can already tell this will be in my top books of 2024. I highly recommend everyone adding this to their to-read list of 2024 and I look forward to purchasing a physical copy in May.

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