Showing both the drama of familial intimacy and the ups and downs of the everyday, My Old Faithful introduces readers to a close-knit Chinese family. These ten interconnected short stories, which take place in China and the United States over a thirty-year period, merge to paint a nuanced portrait of family life, full of pain, surprises, and subtle acts of courage. Richly textured narratives from the mother, the father, the son, and the daughters play out against the backdrop of China's social and economic change.
With quiet humor and sharp insight into the ordinary, Yang Huang writes of a father who spanks his son out of love, a brother who betrays his sister, and a woman who returns to China after many years to find her country changed in ways both expected and startling.
About the Author
Yang Huang grew up in China's Jiangsu province and participated in the 1989 student uprisings. Her debut novel, Living Treasures, won the Nautilus Book Award silver medal in fiction, and her essay and short stories have appeared in The Margins, Eleven Eleven, Asian Pacific American Journal, The Evansville Review, Futures, Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, and Nuvein. She lives in the Bay Area and works for the University of California, Berkeley.
Table of Contents
The Selfish Youngsters
$$$-What the Son Did … Pining Yellow 3
$$$-What the Father Wanted … Chimney 19
$$$-What the Mother Did Not Know … The Birthday Girls 41
The Willful Teenagers
$$$-With Whom the Son Took Liberties … If You Were My Legend 57
$$$-What the Younger Daughter Once Aspired To … The Match 75
$$$-How the Older Daughter Looks … The Homely Girl 89
$$$-What the Father Is Worried About … The Umbrella 106
The Women in Love
$$$-What the Older Daughter Has Got … Dream Lover 125
$$$-What the Younger Daughter Falls For … The Gourmet 146
$$$-What the Mother Is Afraid Of … My Old Faithful 163
What People are Saying About This
Yang Huang's collection of linked stories peels back the layers of a culture too often rendered exotic and opaque to reveal what is intimate and familiar. Sexual awakenings, sibling rivalries, the pain and joy of raising children, aging, the constraints of love and loyalty are all dealt here with a gentle and incisive hand. My Old Faithful is a deeply moving portrait of a family and a society.
In My Old Faithful, Yang Huang explores with humor, tenderness and fierce precision the ties that bind and separate a family across time and space. Filled with unexpected turns and a painterly attention to detail, this is a wise and beautiful book.
Fans of Huang's powerful debut novel, Living Treasures, will welcome the author's return in My Old Faithful. With its rare views of family life in contemporary China, My Old Faithful's intersecting tales of the vibrant sometimes explosive Chen family demonstrate once again Huang's big-hearted gift for penetrating both our vices and virtues.
My Old Faithful establishes Yang Huang as one of our most provocative writers on contemporary China. Imagine Ferrante telling a family's story from prismatic perspectives and you come close to Huang's triumph. Here you find a debut writer adept at sidestepping the timeworn: she gives us a story so real it bursts the bounds of the form, becoming an autofiction which, in its humanity, quickly becomes yours as well.
Charming, funny, and deeply moving, Yang Huang's My Old Faithful chronicles a family over time, in all their struggles and joys.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I began My Old Faithful with a desire to read deliberately, and to immerse myself in the layers and times of a culture that heralded such a momentous shift in China’s direction as a country. From the first of the ten linked stories (two for each member of a Chinese family), I could not have been more pleased. Yang Huang deftly describes the thoughts, motivations and interactions of each family member against the backdrop of a richly detailed culture, and in doing so, holds up a mirror to show the reader that in each of the characters are qualities, insights and similarities that are strikingly familiar. Any parent will empathize with the love, fear, pride, stress, joy, protectiveness and heartache experienced by the parents in My Old Faithful. Anyone who has lived through childhood will undoubtedly identify with the aspirations, self-doubt and insights described by the children. Yang Huang’s narrations of the two daughters’ points-of-view resounded with me as depictions of various points of my own daughters’ lives. My Old Faithful amuses at times, breaks your heart at others, and skillfully peels back the veil on contemporary Chinese family life; throughout her stories, Yang moves the reader with the characters’ utter humanity, while establishing a universe within which familial ties are tested, broken, renewed and reforged. Even while weaving this intricate story, Yang never left me with the sentiment that the characters were contrived or inauthentic. To the contrary, the characters are true to themselves, even when their own perspective differs (sometimes widely) from that of their family members. As I made my way through the stories, I paused after the second arc (there are three), because I wanted to savor what I had already experienced. But that pause lasted about an hour, because I simply had to know more about Rou, Lian and their mother/family. In short, My Old Faithful is a quick read, but an essential one. Yang Huang’s writing is magnificent and these stories are excellent. As Yang herself beseeched us in an interview about this book, “never give up. We are bigger and more resilient than our problems. Every one of us is unique, flawed, fragile, yet powerfully human. Please reach out and touch one another with your courage, compassion, and humility, before it is too late.” Her characters connect that way not only with each other, but with the reader as well. I suspect I’ll be thinking about this family for a long time to come. I love this book.
In a country steeped in an ancient cultural history and personal honor, one Chinese family’s saga is told over a thirty year period in short snippets that highlight each member through the joys and sorrows of time marching on. As China faces social and economic changes, this family will represent a slice of those changes as each member grows and the children leave to make their own way in the world. MY OLD FAITHFUL by Yang Huang is a rich tapestry that unfolds to depict the trials of one close-knit family caught up in unprecedented social change from the traditional family unit to a more modernized version introduced by the three children. This family is not merely representative of a single country, it is representative of the world’s family units as they each face the day to day interactions and upheavals in a world that can be unsettling. Yang Huang’s words are almost lyrical as they talk of a father’s disappointments in his only son, a mother’s hopes for her daughters and her buffering between father and son. Each child will describe their position in their family as they see them, parroting the words of their parents. For me, that is proof that no matter the culture, the family unit is the bedrock and the springboard for each generation to reach for “more,” unafraid to raise their collective voices to be heard. Certainly not a rapid-fire read, this is one to savor for its rich flavor and heartfelt message that is timeless and enlightening. This is a story about families, love, coming of age and letting go of the the unnecessary pieces of the past while weaving the good that remains into the future. I received a complimentary copy from Yang Huang!
This was one of my favorite reads this year. Each of the stories from this family saga of connected stories strikes to the heart of the human experience, while at the same time carrying the weight of the Chinese socio-cultural narratives that are intricately woven throughout. I particularly loved the way in which the stories spanned such an expansive time period and history and yet felt so personal. Yang Huang is a talented, compassionate writer who has much to teach us about the beauty and complexity of our lives.