First I must add a disclaimer to this review. I’m a contributing author of this stunning new anthology, How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia (Signal 8 Press), edited by Shannon Young. But I was sold on it long before I came to my story. In fact, for most of the time I read the anthology, I had totally forgotten I was a contributor.
How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? is like nothing I’ve ever read before. And over the years I’ve read my fair share of non-fiction anthologies set abroad. With those books, there were usually two or three racy stories, but most were mild-mannered and more travelogue than memoir.
But with Dragonfruit, each of the twenty-six essays is honest to the core. They address issues that are difficult enough in one’s home country. But put that person in Vietnam or China or even Japan, and see how it feels to tackle some of life’s hardest knocks.
Imagine having boyfriend troubles and dealing with it on a rickety long-distance bus through China. Or suffering a miscarriage in glamorous Shanghai. Or spending your rain-soaked honeymoon with your father-in-law in tow. How about learning Mandarin from a gorgeous tutor who makes you feel insecure. Or finding out that your husband cheated on you while you thought you were living it up as expats in the Philippines. Or taking your disabled daughter long-distance to an art exhibition in Japan. These and twenty other equally-thrilling and challenging stories make up How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?
The book could have been about shopping, eating, and looking for work abroad, but Shannon Young chose these ultra-personal essays because they are the stories that resonated. And they’re the stories that are rarely reported.
As for my essay, “Ninety Minutes in Tsim Sha Tsui”, it acts as a post-script to my forthcoming memoir, Good Chinese Wife, and gives a taste of what that’s all about.
If you’ve read Dragonfruit, I would love to hear which essay(s) you liked the best. For me, it was too difficult to pick even a few favorites. I loved them all!