The Family Chao: A new novel by Lan Samantha Chang

 Lan Samantha Chang and 'The Family Chao' book cover

Lan Samantha Chang, Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop

January 18, 2022 - 12:30pm

Praise forThe Family Chao, the highly anticipated new novel from Iowa Writers' Workshop Director, Lan Samantha Chang:

from The Guardian:

Chang’s prose moves with the unfussy ease of a shark through water – for the longest time you are just enjoying your swim, soaking up the story. Only midway through the book does it occur to you that a master hunter is at work: a writer cutting through the darker depths of what it means to be treated as an outsider in America.

from Publisher’s Weekly:

Chang’s project became clear: to undertake an homage to The Brothers Karamazov, weaving in her own experiences as a second-generation Chinese American, as well as questions of what assimilation, and being an immigrant, truly mean after living in a place long enough to have ghosts there. Each of the three sons struggles to confront the truth about what happened to his father, and one of them becomes a public scapegoat; at the trial that ensues, they and other members of their tight-knit Chinese American community are faced with a new sense of how they are viewed by their white neighbors and, more broadly, by the country where they have lived for so long....Chang is the first woman, and the first Asian American, to hold the position of director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. All students now receive full tuition and a stipend, which had been one of her goals when she started at the program in 2006. There’s also far more diversity: “Aesthetically, the work that people are doing is more diverse, and the people themselves are more culturally diverse and racially diverse,” she says. “We’re trying to create a space where writing is at the heart of things—not people’s particular level of fame, writing career progress, et cetera—because it all comes from the writing itself, the work. We’re trying to give people a time in their lives where they don’t have to think about these other things, ideally.”

from Kirkus (starred review):

Chang’s well-turned third novel neatly balances two substantial themes. One is the blast radius of family dysfunction; the novel is largely told from James’ (more innocent) perspective, but Chang deftly shows how each of the brothers, and the partners, exes, and onlookers around them, struggles to make sense of Leo and his death. (Handily, the plural of Chao is chaos.) The second is the way anti-immigrant attitudes warp the truth and place additional pressure on an overstressed family: When one of the brothers faces trial for Leo’s death, news reports and local gossip are full of crude stereotypes about the “Brothers Karamahjong” and rumors of the restaurant serving dog meat. As with Dostoevsky’s original, the story culminates in a trial that becomes a stage for broader debates over obligation, morality, and family. But Chang is excellent at exploring this at a more intimate level as well. A later plot twist deepens the tension and concludes a story that smartly offers only gray areas in response to society’s demands for simplicity and assurance.

The Family Chao is also featured in:

The Washington Post: "February books: the best-reviewed titles of the last month"

The Independent: "The Family Chao is an engrossing family drama modelled on Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov"

The Irish Times: "The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang: Eat or be Eaten"

NPR Weekend Edition: 'The Family Chao' centers on good food made by a not-so-good person

Iowa Public Radio "Tak of Iowa Book Club"

NPR Book Reviews "'The Family Chao' is a riveting story of identity and belonging"

The Washington Post "Reimagining the Brothers Karamazov? Lan Samantha Chang likes a challenge"

The Boston Globe "Lan Samantha Chang redefines the 'immigrant novel'"

Star Tribune "Review 'The Family Chao' by Lan Samantha Chang

Lit Hub "Easy Come, Easy Go: Lan Samantha Chang on Writing, Debt, and Diamonds"

BookPage "Starred review"

Oprah Daily "Lit Up"

Elle "Shelf Life: Lan Samantha Chang"

Catapult "The Anxiety of Exclamation Points"

Poets & Writers "Ten Questions for Lan Samantha Chang"

Los Angeles Times "10 books to add to your reading list in February"

The Washington Post "Best thrillers abound this month. Here are five of the best."

Vogue "The Best Books of 2022: A Preview"

Oprah Daily "The 50 Most Anticipated Books of 2022"

Lit Hub "Lit Hub's Most Anticipated Books of 2022"

The Millions  "Most Anticipated"

Book Riot "25 Best Book Club Books for 2022 Reading"

Stylist (U.K.) "The Fiction Books You Can't Miss in 2022"

The Week "Nine Books to Read in 2022"

The American Booksellers Association "February 2022 Indie Next List Pick"