Joss and Gold
Afterword by Leong Liew Geok
At the center of this engaging "un-love" story is Li An, a smart and strong-willed Malaysian woman of Chinese descent. The conflicts that surround Li An in the politically charged atmosphere of Kuala Lumpur in 1969 intersect with her own internal contradictions: although she supports her nation's struggle to build its own identity after decades of British colonial rule, she cannot renounce her love for the English poetry that she teaches. And although she aspires to be a new kind of Asian woman—independent and unsentimental—she finds herself married to the safe and dependable Henry, and attracted to an American Peace Corps volunteer, Chester.
Both external and internal tensions build toward a dramatic night that will forever alter Li An's life—and the lives of many around her. Unexpectedly, this ambitious three-part novel leaps across time and place to New York in the early 1980s, where Chester, now an anthropology professor, is coming to terms with a secret he has nursed for twelve years: that his brief affair with Li An had unplanned consequences, and that he has a child he has never acknowledged or seen. He finally travels back, only to find a much-changed Li An—a successful businesswoman with no time for poetry or love—raising her daughter amidst a very nontraditional family of women.
As Lim's characters try to find a way back to their pasts and each other, they are caught up in the larger tensions between East and West, women and men, freedom and responsibility. With insight and wit, Lim shows us that what we expect may not always be what we get, but all roads lead us, ultimately, to our deepest selves.
"This felicitous novel is several books in one—Madame Butterfly transplanted to Malaysia, a feminist manifesto, and a commentary on the new Southeast Asia that has been emerging in recent years. Lim has woven these strands together in a colorful batik that is dazzling."
"A gripping novel centered around a strong, language-struck, culture-crossing Asian woman's quest for independence. . . . A daring, sensuous, and pungent first novel."
"Set amid the clashing cultures of Kuala Lumpur, New York, and Singapore, Joss and Gold is a gripping novel, evoking a world wherein culture, family, business, self, and language have become all 'champor-champor, mixed, rojak,' and tracing the struggle for Asian-rooted modernity where power, risk, and agency are set in a strong Asian woman's hands. Joss and Gold offers postcolonial English at its biting best."
"Lim's rich, earthy writing combines the nuance of a poet with the ear of a born storyteller. Joss and Gold is compelling, provocative, and fascinating."
"How to deal with what the white man has left behind? For Shirley Geok-lin Lim, this is a question not only about geopolitics but also about gender politics. . . . This elegantly crafted tale places Lim among the most imaginative and dexterous storytellers writing in the English language today."