SWIM (A Novel)
(The Permanent Press, 2019)
Carson Chow is a high functioning addict. For years, he's been able to meet the increasing demands from his aging immigrant parents, while hiding his crystal meth use every other weekend. One Friday night, as he's passed out from a drug binge, he misses thirty-eight phone calls from his father, detailing first the collapse and eventually the death of his mother. Carson has always been close to his mother; he was the only person she confided in when his father had a one-night affair with her younger sister twenty years ago. For the following two weeks, he throws himself into the preparation of his mother's funeral, juggling between temptations and obligations. Sometimes slipping into relapse, his efforts are thwarted by a stoic father who is impractical and unable to take care of himself, a grandmother suffering dementia, a sister with a failing marriage, and a young niece with unknown trauma that can be triggered by the sound of running water. He tries to find support from his ex, Jeremy. Now clean and sober, Jeremy rebuffs him. As Carson assumes his mother's caregiving role, her secret resurfaces and now haunts him alone. Will this tragedy plunge him deeper into his abuse or finally rouse him from his addiction stupor?
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Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mysteries
SWIM marks the debut of a brilliant storyteller. This is San Gabriel Valley's Bright Lights, Big City--an exploration of a man grappling with drug addiction, relationships and family drama in the heart of the Chinese American community in Southern California. Never tragic or melodramatic, the novel seamlessly pulls us through Carson Chow's life, clearly and precisely exposing us to truths about being human.
Dr. Stewart Chang
Professor of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Raw, vulnerable, and heartfelt, Wat’s debut novel opens a window into the dysfunctions of a diasporic Asian American family living in the sprawling space of Los Angeles through the eyes of its queer son.
- Amerasia Journal
Irene Suico Soriano, author of Primates from an Archipelago
Of the many ways of knowing and dealing with grief after the passing of a family member, Eric C. Wat in his distinctive and poignant first book of fiction, SWIM, offers continuous moments of depth and sensitivity that pull the reader under and over. The rich and complicated portrayal of a multigenerational immigrant Chinese American family,…coming to terms with past hurts by way of present day realities, has a cumulative impact for its queer and enigmatic high-functioning meth-using figurehead, Carson Chow…Exquisitely sharp yet tender writing.
Dr. Stephen Hong Sohn, Professor of English, University of California, Riverside and author of Racial Asymmetries
Wat's novel is one of the first that show changes not only in the general attitudes toward queer men but specifically toward queer Asian American men from within Asian American communities. In this sense, it's perhaps the most progressive novel I've seen ever published from this particular perspective. It’s part of a growing set of novels (such as Rakesh Satyal's No One Can Pronounce My Name and Brian Leung's Lost Men) that are pushing the boundaries for queer Asian American representations. Once Carson's mother dies, a whole host of new conundrums emerge, the most prominent of which is Carson's drug use. Carson's addictions come to a head precisely because of all the stress generated out of his mother's death. Carson is so used to being the caretaker of his family that he begins to realize he must take care of himself as well. The novel's strength is in these complicated family dynamics and how they unfold in a very textured construction of Los Angeles. There is a cultural geographer's sensibility of the cityscape here, where scenes always unfold with a specificity of texture that always enhance the various dramas unfolding…(T)his novel is as much about coming into one's identity as a mature and responsible adult as it is about the struggles of one Asian American family. Wat's prose only grows stronger as the novel brings various threads together. For me, the narrative took a little bit longer to settle precisely because I found the character to be at first a little bit hard to like. I always remind students that we can't always embrace characters, precisely because they're meant to be three dimensional, so many harbor flaws that we wouldn't want to admit that we ourselves might too possess. Fortunately, Wat's patient and allows Carson's personality and motivations to emerge with some grace, which enables the narrative only to grow richer by the conclusion. I imagine Wat's trailblazing novel will be one that can be adopted on classes on Asian American issues and queer studies!
Read full review here: https://asianamlitfans.dreamwidth.org/214048.html
While Carson’s drug addiction provides fodder for some epic failures on Carson’s part, the really interesting parts of the book are Carson’s interactions with his relatives, including his dad, a complicated typical Chinese son-dad relationship with little outright conversation, instead conversing through mutual understanding and facial gestures.
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