A House by the Water
Yang, Victor Wei Ke
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A House by the Water tells the story of a Chinese immigrant family through multiple voices: that of a twenty-eight-old gay son, but also those of his parents. The father, Jun, is desperate for a solution to his son’s problem. As a scientist, he pores over clinical studies, but he fails to find a cure for homosexuality. Liya, a hotel housekeeper, suffers a stroke after hearing the news. Eric, the son, turns to conversion therapy. As mother and father seek to save Eric, and as Eric attempts to save himself, some call their actions homophobia; others insist it is love. The distinctions are not as simple as they may appear: hate or love, gay or straight, desire or duty. This is about a story about members of a family who reckon with the secrets they have kept from themselves and one another. Whereas queer people have to come out of a closet, immigrants have to assimilate into one. In America, we learn to hide the truest parts of ourselves, for only then can we escape shame and humiliation. We can keep these secrets in real life, but in the novel, the characters cannot continue playing pretend. A House by the Water explores the unintended consequences of truth-telling, and what it means to love someone who was never the person you thought they were.
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