Activities of Daily Living

A Novel

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Pub Date 12 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 31 Mar 2022

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Description

A lucid and moving debut novel on the interconnection between work and life, loneliness and kinship, and the projects that occupy our time.

How do we take stock of a life—by what means, and by what measure? This is the question that preoccupies Alice, a Taiwanese immigrant in her late thirties. In the off-hours from her day job, Alice struggles to create a project about the enigmatic downtown performance artist Tehching Hsieh and his monumental, yearlong 1980s performance pieces. As Alice roots deeper into Hsieh’s radical use of time and his mysterious disappearance from the art world, her project starts metabolizing events from her own life. She wanders from subway rides to street protests, loses touch with a friend, and becomes a caretaker for her stepfather, a Vietnam vet whose dream of making traditional Chinese furniture dissolved in alcoholism and dementia.

Moving between present-day and 1980s New York City, with detours to Silicon Valley and the Venice Biennale, Activities of Daily Living is a startlingly precise, vivid, and tender examination of the passage of time.

About the Author: 

Born in Taipei, Lisa Hsiao Chen received a 2018 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award and fellowships from the Center for Fiction and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Workspace program.

A lucid and moving debut novel on the interconnection between work and life, loneliness and kinship, and the projects that occupy our time.

How do we take stock of a life—by what means, and by what...


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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780393881127
PRICE $26.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

It’s common lately to talk about looking at everything through a lens – racial, ethnic, gender, sexual preference, etc. “Activities of Daily Living” Lisa Hsiao Chin takes this to a whole other level. She gives us a kaleidoscope to look through, and it is endlessly amazing.

I will leave it to future reviewers who are much better read than I to find the most appropriate comparisons for this marvelous debut effort. The best that I can come up with is Walter Benjamin’s “The Arcades Project”. Each time that I felt that I was getting a handle on the essence of Chin’s thesis, she took me around yet another bend where the view was amazing, and my mind was rocked.

Here are a few of the many lenses that the reader is treated to: the life and plight of Asian-American emigrants, immigrants, expats and lost and found souls; life, (especially end-of-life) care, reconciliation, and reflection of parents, partners, and friends; time – what is wasted, what is well spent, what is worth sharing, preserving; how we document, preserve, present every detail of life, down to the most quotidian and banal. And I am just scratching the surface.

“Activities of Daily Living” is a novel of autofiction. It is a mosaic and a collage. It is an homage to scores of writers, philosophers, social scientists, parents, friends from long ago to just yesterday. It is simply a must read debut for lovers of literature. Ms. Chin has zoomed right up to the top of my list of “can’t wait to see what’s next”.

Thanks to W.W. Horton and Netgalley for the eARC.

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