The Chinese Groove
by Kathryn Ma
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Pub Date 24 Jan 2023 | Archive Date 23 Jan 2023
Catapult, Counterpoint Press, and Soft Skull Press, Counterpoint
Eighteen-year-old Shelley, born into a much-despised branch of the Zheng family in Yunnan Province and living in the shadow of his widowed father’s grief, dreams of bigger things. Buoyed by an exuberant heart and his cousin Deng’s tall tales about the United States, Shelley heads to San Francisco to claim his destiny, confident that any hurdles will be easily overcome by the awesome powers of the “Chinese groove,” a belief in the unspoken bonds between countrymen that transcend time and borders.
Upon arrival, Shelley is dismayed to find that his “rich uncle” is in fact his unemployed second cousin once removed and that the grand guest room he’d envisioned is but a scratchy sofa. The indefinite stay he’d planned for? That has a firm two-week expiration date. Even worse, the loving family he hoped would embrace him is in shambles, shattered by a senseless tragedy that has cleaved the family in two. They want nothing to do with this youthful bounder who’s barged into their lives. Ever the optimist, Shelley concocts a plan to resuscitate his American dream by insinuating himself into the family. And, who knows, maybe he’ll even manage to bring them back together in the process.
"Bighearted, funny, and tender, The Chinese Groove is the story of a relentlessly optimistic dreamer who crashes unbidden into the lives of his distant American relatives in San Francisco. Kathryn Ma had me rooting for her unlikely hero every step of the way."
—Bonnie Tsui, author of Why We Swim and American Chinatown
"I fell head over heels for Shelley, the hero of Kathryn Ma’s beautiful and heartfelt novel The Chinese Groove. Anyone who has had a dream that popped, has foolishly relied on youthful expectations, or loved someone way too much will relate to this young person’s experience. This is a nuanced story of immigration, leading us through all of the frustrations and obstacles that stand in the way of open-hearted, deserving people who try to move to this country. But it’s more than that, in that it's funny as hell, and a wonderful coming of age narrative that made me cheer for Shelley the wayward poet the whole way through. I loved this book."
—Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Embassy Wife
"The Chinese Groove is a charmingly narrated immigrant tale turned upside down. Kathryn Ma has written a funny, largehearted, and uniquely American story about where dreams and reality collide. I feel the Chinese groove!"
—Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin
"By turns picaresque and poignant, Kathryn Ma's The Chinese Groove is an utterly original exploration of the Chinese diaspora, pondering the ancestral ties that span between China and San Francisco. Shelley is a poet and would-be striver with an indelible voice. A marvel."
—Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City
"Tender in all of the ways that matter, The Chinese Groove peels back our American absurdities and illustrates that love, more than anything, is powerful enough to sustain us through darkness and disaster. Kathryn Ma’s latest work is brimming with characters whose undeniable complexity, authenticity, and hilarity will make you utter the age-old lie of 'just one more page.' And the twists! Don’t get me started. A wondrous novel where nothing, and no one, is as it seems."
—Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck
"San Francisco's foggy Sunset District is the 'best of all possible worlds' in this warm, delightful tale of family, fortune seeking, and the generous reservoirs of community waiting to be summoned in this, the best of all possible novels. The Chinese Groove is lyrical, funny, and refreshingly thrilling, and it will take you to the best place of all: to home, seen anew. Thanks to Kathryn Ma, I have a new favorite book on my shelf."
—Adam Johnson, author of Fortune Smiles
"I love what Kathryn Ma has done in The Chinese Groove. As the plot follows the scams and counter-scams of Zheng Xue Li’s life in America, its lovely satirical edge is without meanness and it has much to say about stereotype, deception, and family battles. It’s an astute novel, in which every character’s stubbornness unfolds a fabulous story. A joy to read."
—Joan Silber, author of Secrets of Happiness
"Kathryn Ma's The Chinese Groove is terrific in every way: smart, warm, witty, keenly observed, and best of all, refreshing, as she meditates on love, hope, and what it means to be a family."
—Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar and We Are Each Other's Harvest
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