Winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
, Jenny Zhang's short-story collection is a bracing set of coming-of-age-tales full of wait...did-she-really-just-say-that moments (you've hardly turned a page before a narrator is oversharing about bathroom demands in an overcrowded apartment). It's "wise, generous, and just the right amount of gross
," as we put it last year. But the book is also rooted in more serious portraits of the lives of Chinese-Americans and the struggle to adapt to American norms while preserving the culture that's been left behind. "Our Mothers Before Them" explores the impact of China's brutal Cultural Revolution on a family of immigrants three decades later, and "You Fell into the River and I Saved You!" affectionately tracks one girl's distance from her grandmother over time. The New York that Zhang describes is both impoverished and immigrant-rich, a city of struggle and smart, tough children of the kind that are rare in fiction, and yet one more reason why Sour Heart
is one of the most memorable books of 2017.