Professor Chai's 'Useful Phrases For Immigrants' Explores Effect of Globalization, Class, Race on Family Dynamics

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

BUSTLE -- Chai, an assistant professor in Creative Writing at San Francisco State University and the author of 10 books, writes about the relationships between her characters with heartbreaking honesty. In “The Lucky Day,” Rose drives overnight to visit her mom in another state to wish her a happy birthday. Dealing with a serious illness and living with her son, Sam, her mother asks that Rose to take her to the races.

This immediacy runs through many of the stories; Chai captures the love, frustration, anger, disappointment and more that seeps through these family relationships: There’s the woman who is trying her best to live with her in-laws until she can no longer bear it; there’s the young daughter reeling from the discovery of her mother’s affair; and there's the young boy who appears docile and humble in front of his grandpa but leads a very different life on the city streets. In many ways, these characters seem to lead double lives — but maybe that’s just what being part of a family is all about, according to Chai.