Ordinary Disasters: How I Stopped Being a Model Minority (Hardcover)

Ordinary Disasters: How I Stopped Being a Model Minority By Anne Anlin Cheng Cover Image
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A bold, moving, intimate look at race, gender, identity, illness, and immigration that examines, through lenses both personal and political, what it means to be an Asian American woman living in America today.

Part memoir, part cultural criticism, part history, Anne Anlin Cheng’s audacious original essays focus on art, politics, and popular culture. Through personal stories woven with a keen eye and an open heart, Cheng summons up the grief, love, anger, and humor in negotiating the realities of being a scholar, an immigrant Asian American woman, a cancer patient, a wife of a white man, and a mother of biracial children . . . all in the midst of the (extra)ordinary stresses of recent years.

Ordinary Disasters explores with lyricism and surgical precision the often difficult to articulate consequences of race, gender, immigration, and empire. It is the story of Chinese mothers and daughters, of race and nationality, of ambition and gender, and the intricate ways in which we struggle for interracial and intergenerational intimacies in a world where there can be no seamless identity.

About the Author

Anne Anlin Cheng was born in Taiwan, grew up in the American South, and is author of three books on American racial politics and aesthetics. Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Cheng is the 2023-2024 Ford Scholar-in-Residence at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She is professor of English and former director of American Studies at Princeton University and lives in Princeton, NJ.

Praise For…

"Anne Anlin Cheng has written a book on the brink. She stares into her own abyss, fearlessly. But she also gazes into the deep well of the American soul from where racism and sexism comes, sometimes manifest in unspeakable violence, oftentimes through microaggressions that have worn down her body and spirit. But if her body has been broken, its rubble serves to hone the sharpness of her mind, its keen edge evident throughout this exhilarating work."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer and A Man of Two Faces

"There is something fearless in the way Anne Anlin Cheng turns a brilliant analytic intelligence on the tender, intimate, ordinary stuff of living—the relation of husband and wife, mother and child, the relation of our daily selves to our mortality—that is very beautiful and a little scary. It’s a book that opens up and opens up, goes deeper when you think it has willed and reflected its way to its depths."
—Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the U.S.

Ordinary Disasters is an essay collection that will dazzle, delight, and intrigue its readers. In prose that is as vulnerable as it is exquisite, Anne Anlin Cheng manages to get at the heart of the human experience. Readers will find themselves identifying with both the tender, personal moments that the author lovingly reveals, as well as the larger cultural issues that have shaped her distinctly complex experiences on earth. This is a book about love, family, community, work, motherhood, womanhood, daughterhood, and marriage. You will enter this book and find a companion in its fascinating stories. You will close its covers with a greater understanding of what it means to be a person in this day and age—actually, any age.”
—Emily Bernard, author of Black Is the Body

Ordinary Disasters is one of those rare books that makes you think, feel, think again, and feel again. Anne Anlin Cheng writes about history and culture with sharp insight, and she writes about personal life with its many private joys and pains with delicacy and intimacy. The book is an elegant and courageous record of not only one individual’s story but also a generation’s experience and memory.”
Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose

“Anne Anlin Cheng, one of the nation’s most eloquent scholars of race and gender, has given us a luminous gift in Ordinary Disasters—a coordinated flight of inner stories that wheel and dive through history, pain, love, consciousness, art, childhood, parenthood, the Asian experience in America, the conundrums of time and mortality.  A powerful, courageous book, extremely artful, maybe her best.”
—Richard Preston, author of Wild Trees and The Hot Zone

“How lucky we are, how blessed, to behold the voice, heart, and mind of the ingenious Anne Anlin Cheng. I’ve long been familiar with her virtuosity, and have dearly anticipated this unflinchingly erudite and deeply felt collection of personal and critical essays. With power, aplomb, and irreverent wit, Cheng investigates the alienating and illuminating experiences of immigration, motherhood, grief, intimacy, beauty, daughterhood, illness, race, academia, and the state of being a ‘stranger.’ The complexity of being an Asian American woman also takes center stage in this book, as one of the world’s foremost thinkers helps us grapple with the contradictions of navigating this beautiful, unbeautiful life.”
—Sally Wen Mao, author of Ninetails

"Written in elegant, powerful, and often poetic prose, Ordinary Disasters is an arresting amalgam of radical honesty and deep erudition that pulls no punches about the uncomfortable questions that emerge in our everyday entanglements with gender, racial, and cultural difference. It confronts them head on with blinding clarity and subtle sensitivity through the lens of a 'third gaze'—a complex positionality Cheng embraces to articulate the overlapping vectors of gender, identity, and culture she straddles. In doing so, moments of deep personal vulnerability are transformed into expressions of extraordinary strength, tenacity, and compassion. The book is a tour de force that challenges us to reclaim both monumental and quotidian personal and professional interactions anew, as sites of cognition, care, beauty, and sustenance." 
—Tina Campt, author of A Black Gaze

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593316825
ISBN-10: 0593316827
Publisher: Pantheon
Publication Date: September 10th, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English