A review by abbie_
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou

dark emotional funny reflective medium-paced


Don’t you love it when you have high expectations for a book and not only are they met but exceeded?? Disorientation is without a doubt my favourite book of 2023. I usually read quite short books, so 400+ pages is a fair amount for me, but I could have read another 400 pages of these characters! This book is so perfectly paced, there’s not a single section that feels drawn out or rushed. The character development feels believable (and sometimes scary) even though I believe it’s classed as satire, and I loved Ingrid and Eunice!

It centres around Ingrid, a Taiwanese-American PhD student in her eighth year, who finds herself somehow studying a Chinese-American poet she initially had no interest in. When she uncovers something strange in the archive one day, she sets off a chain of events that nobody could have predicted, unleashing chaos at her university which unwittingly leads to the start of a thinly veiled white nationalist movement. Believe me, it’s a wild ride, both horrifying and hilarious, as Chou’s wit is unrelenting. 

Disorientation tackles everything from fetishisation, racism in academia, identity politics, interracial relationships, parent-child relationships, and everything slots into the story so seamlessly. Ingrid’s journey felt realistic in that she doesn’t unlearn all of her internal biases in one fell swoop - it’s halting and messy, she has a lot to learn and unlearn, and I feel like Chou portrays her development incredibly. She made me feel so many emotions for all these characters - disgust, rage, irritation, pride, the unbearable urge to punch Stephen in the mouth. Truly a rollercoaster, my jaw literally dropped several times throughout the book. 

Never boring, often shocking, almost always true to real life even with its exaggerations. Loved it so very much!!

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