A Feather on the Breath of God
a novel, Picador new edition, January 2006
A young woman looks back to the world of her immigrant parents: a Chinese-Panamanian father and a German mother, who meet in postwar Germany and settle in New York City. Growing up in a housing project in the 1950s and 1960s, the narrator escapes into dreams inspired both by her parents’ stories and by her own reading and, for a time, into the otherworldly life of ballet. A yearning homesick mother, a silent and withdrawn father, the ballet—these are the elements that shape the young woman’s imagination and her sexuality.
A story about displacement and loss, and about the tangled nature of relationships between parents and children, between language and love. Each of the characters remains in his or her way deeply rooted in the past and may be said to bear out the truth of Jane Austen’s observation that one does not love a place the less for having suffered in it.
Praise for A Feather on the Breath of God
“A forceful novel by a writer of uncommon talent.” — New York Times Book Review
“This strange, lucid story of the unwished-for child of unassimilated immigrants takes us well beyond the particulars of “mixed ethnicity”—beyond even the experience of “America”—into deep paradoxes of identity and love. Both old-fashioned and subversive, stringent and redemptive, it’s a pleasure from the first page to the last.” — Jonathan Franzen
“This is a very honest, painful book, almost relentless in its objectivity. The heroine’s Chinese father, German mother, and Russian lover embody different fates of American immigrants. This novel is a genuine piece of immigrant literature and deserves a large readership.” — Ha Jin, BOOKFORUM.net