Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Reflecting Choong's diverse background, this engaging debut novel brings together traditional legends and contemporary narratives situated in Asia, the US, and Europe. A native Malaysian, Choong attended Wellesley College and is presently in Yale's PhD program in East Asian languages and literatures. FireWife chronicles the geographical and spiritual journey of a photographer who is unexpectedly connected to the various women she photographs. Her story unfolds as these women tell of their lives, each of which is attached to an ancient mythology of fire and water. Choong's writing is eloquent, combining slightly experimental prose with small doses of poetry and legend. Reminiscent of debuts by Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior, 1976) and Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club, 1989), FireWife is a worthwhile contribution to the growing field of Asian American literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers; all levels. L. McMillan Marywood University
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Making her fiction debut while working on her Ph.D. in East Asian lit at Yale, Choong, a Malay-American, riffs on myths of fire and water as manifested in eight contemporary women's lives. An Indian woman Lakshmi (or "fire"), marries a man for passionate love and ends up having a forced abortion (because she is carrying a girl) and being burned alive (after refusing her brother-in-law sex ). In an awkward framing device, her soul finds Nin, a 31-year-old Malay-Chinese-American photographer who, as a memorial to her little sister, Mien (who drowned at a tapioca factory at five), undertakes a six-month globe-spanning journey to complete the FireWife project, a "personal photo essay" documenting the lives of such women as young prostitutes like Ut (innocence) and Table (stability), and the anorectic data-entry worker Maria (mother). There are eight women in all, each presented in incantatory first person, alternating with chapters from Nin. Nin's mission connects her to what seems distressingly like an eternal feminine conflict between desire, exploitation and self-debasement, one that recalls Nin's own struggle with survivor's guilt after Mien's death. The connection is tenuous, and the journey can be hallucinatory and downright mystifying, but it's also often forthright and sexy. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Choong's first novel draws on the ancient Chinese mythology of struggle between the archetypal forces of fire and water, with outcomes affecting each protagonist so that the extreme passion of fire-love shapes the life of one and deeply flowing water-love defines that of another. The travels of photographer Nin, who suffers long-standing guilt over her sister's drowning, awakens her self-awareness. She leaves her husband and California corporate life, eventually realizing that she is four parts fire having to live the life of four parts water and that her FireWife journey means living as she truly is. Her global quest for images of women's stories becomes personal as she encounters Zimi, who lives in Taipei by leasing her forehead for advertisements promoting Tampax Tampons 2 for 1, and the girl known as table, who works naked as a table for sushi dining. While serving lascivious Tokyo businessmen, table escapes reality by imagining herself studying fashion design in New York. Such marginalized lives, depicted in Choong's sparely elegant, flowing prose, become icons of society's disposal of women. --Whitney Scott Copyright 2006 Booklist