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Darien Gee
Author
Allegiance
What does it mean to be Chinese American? How are we reflected in the people we love, and us in them? What obligation do we have to those who share our blood, and how does a woman claim her life as her own? In vivid and evocative flashes of prose, Darien Hsu Gee dissects her beliefs and navigates the complexity of family dynamics in search of her identity.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 8.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Idea: Gee delivers a sparely written micro-memoir that explores Chinese American identity, family, and coming-of-age. With an overarching theme of existing between two worlds, Allegiance offers a striking collection of memories and reflections.

Prose: Gee is a polished and precise writer, whose poetic vignettes capture the haunting intensity of memories as filtered through time.

Originality: Though works about cultural identity and its conflicts are familiar, with its visceral language, poetic sensibility, and visual presentation, Allegiance takes a unique approach to memoir.

Character/Execution: While readers may not gain a complete sense of the author's experiences, Allegiance provides a lovely and impressionistic look into the small, formative moments that help to create a sense of self.

Date Submitted: November 23, 2020

Reviews
In this arresting memoir, Gee (Friendship Bread) crafts engrossing and poetic scenes from her life that illuminate struggles with identity and feeling out of place as a Chinese-American woman. Her writing reflects both a lifelong weariness with these challenges and her resilience in carving out a maverick path as a writer and mother. Gee initially reflects on her childhood and relationships with her family; the second section discusses her own children, specifically as related to her writing career; and the final section details living in extraordinary times. Each section informs the others in distinct, nuanced ways.

Gee provides exceptionally rich and vivid detail. In “On Chinese New Year,” she describes a moment in which “smoke hangs in the air like ducks in the butcher shop, dripping fat and prosperity.” “Vine” shows off Gee's sense of humor, when she portrays herself as “a woman whose road most traveled is between the desk in her bedroom and the kitchen.” In “This Is Not A Drill,” she cleverly narrates receiving a mass text that her home of Hawai'i was being threatened by missiles, depicting the period when all she can do is wait with repetitive lines of only timestamps, written out with no text.

Gee insightfully encapsulates her experiences: in comparing a broken relationship with her brother to her father's career as a geophysicist, she writes, “fractures have their place—they allow for movement.” Gee's vulnerability regarding her flaws, fears, and hopes creates an intimate experience, giving readers an inside glimpse of her struggles, both personal and universal. This poignant, poetic memoir will draw readers in.

Takeaway: This poetic, introspective exploration of family, writing, and Chinese-American identity will delight readers.

Great for fans of: Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese, Anne Lamott.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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