In the shockingly never-released-in-paperback Lonesome Lies Before Us, Don Lee wrote the anti-ethnic ethnic novel, where only a plate of food might hint at a character’s brownness. So in an about face, The Partition’s stories are packed with hapa haoles, gen 1.5s, and lots of where-are-you-from inquisitions. I loved the story “Late in the Day” in which a filmmaker’s labor of love (itself an anti-ethnic ethnic film) is called out for using a biracial actor and instead takes a mercenary job as director of a short vanity film, only to see it picked up by PBS. Another of my favorites is “UFOs,” where a television reporter takes two lovers, a married White guy and an earnest Korean American doctor who can spot her plastic surgery. Just about every story turns messy, and why should it be otherwise? The way these stories span decades and the tone of melancholy punctuated with humor make The Partition’s stories almost Alice Munro-esque. A worthy bookend to Lee’s first collection, Yellow, and here’s hoping it will be seen as similarly groundbreaking.— Daniel Goldin
I like honesty, direct but gracefully written, especially when characters can't help telling the truth and then wonder if they're wrong. Lee's collection of stories has exactly that. The main characters are Asian Americans of many ethnicities and experiences. They talk about their lives (and the nasty treatment they face routinely) with a confidence and wry humor that grabbed my attention. I wasn't in tune with the places and foods and some of the jargon, but it didn't matter. Lee made me believe in the people. I trusted him with the film director, college professor, chef, restaurant owners, TV news crew, and the man we meet during three stages of his life, from Tokyo teenager to B movie semi-star to later-life tea shop chain owner. Lee brings suspense and sudden, quirky surprises to their days and makes them true. I'm grateful for these flesh and blood nuances of living that lay stereotypes to waste. I enjoyed every minute!— Tim McCarthy
Don Lee writes about Asian American experiences with such individuality, depth, and razor-sharply defined details as to dash away any notion of a monolithic “they.” The Partition is a collection of longer stories in which characters have room to reflect and remember, room to breathe. Lee patiently plots out not just moments but entire lives, then brings them to a breaking point. It’s a difficult story structure to work with, and he does so with insight and grace, finding for each character the place where the momentum and weight of their personal history meets and presses against the weight of the world’s expectations. These are grown up, heavy duty, seriously satisfying short stories.— Chris Lee
A thrilling new story collection from acclaimed writer Don Lee exploring Asian American identity, spanning decades and continents
"The Partition is flat-out brilliant: a witty, kaleidoscopic tear through questions of race and identity in America today by a writer who has wrought luminous fiction from these issues for years. Don Lee's collection offers vivid, entertaining proof that ethnicity is never straightforward or easy--no matter who we are, or where we stand."
--Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
"Whatever you're hiding from may find you in a Don Lee story. But this isn't a warning. The Partition is, again and again, about Asian Americans in ways we don't always admit we need, a collection about how we alternately cheat and show up for each other and ourselves. And the whole time, there's a canny, shrewd love, guiding us the way through."
--Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel
Twenty-one years after the publication of his landmark debut collection Yellow, Don Lee returns to the short story form for his sixth book, The Partition.
The Partition is an updated exploration of Asian American identity, this time with characters who are presumptive model minorities in the arts, academia, and media. Spanning decades, these nine novelistic stories traverse an array of cities, from Tokyo to Boston, Honolulu to El Paso, touching upon transient encounters in local bars, restaurants, and hotels.
Culminating in a three-story cycle about a Hollywood actor, The Partition incisively examines heartbreak, identity, family, and relationships--the characters searching for answers to universal questions: Where do I belong? How can I find love? What defines an authentic self?
About the Author
Don Lee is the author of the story collection Yellow and the novels Country of Origin, Wrack and Ruin, The Collective, and Lonesome Lies Before Us. He has received an American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, the writer Jane Delury, and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Temple University in Philadelphia.