All Roads Lead to Blood
Unflinching and compelling portrayals of desire fill this award-winning story collection by Bonnie Chau. Chau explores the lives of young women, focusing on love, heritage, and memory, presenting fresh perspectives of second-generation Chinese-Americans.
Moving back and forth between California and New York, and ranging as far away as Paris, Chau’s exquisitely written stories are bold, highly imaginative, and haunting, featuring unique characters who defiantly exert their individuality.
Selected as the Grand Prize Winner for the 2040 Books Awards Program by Mat Johnson.
Bonnie Chau is from Southern California, where she formerly ran writing programs at the nonprofit 826LA. She received her MFA in fiction from Columbia University, with a joint concentration in translation, focusing on French and Chinese fiction. A Kundiman fellow and former bookseller, she is currently assistant web editor at Poets & Writers in New York City.
Praise for All Roads Lead to Blood:
“Chau’s stories [are] a straight shot into the deepest recesses of my body…masterful.”
—Anelise Chen, author of So Many Olympic Exertions
““All roads lead to blood,” that is, to family and heritage, with which one is unshakably connected, and to the inevitable hurts of life. A Kundiman fellow and assistant web editor at Poets & Writers, Chau articulates these truths in luscious and biting language, exploring the experiences of second-generation Chinese American women in smart, tightly telescoped vignettes. The opening story, “Monstrosity,” exemplifies both theme and mood here as the narrator struggles when she’s told, “They’re your people” of Chinese drivers, wondering “if they were the aliens or I was the alien.” Later, having sex, she splits apart and sees a second self who declares almost mockingly, “I will be the Chinese you.” Whether she’s paralleling the lives of two sisters or a woman dealing with male trouble and a jellyfish escaping from her faucet, Chau writes with an energetic, layered-on, lyrical physicality that vivifies the act of getting dressed for work, successfully links a sexual fling to a bird flung against glass, shows someone “emerging out of the cobbling-together-five-restaurant-jobs chrysalis,” and points out that “after five hours of inhaling invisible cat, my lungs feel scraped and hollow.”
VERDICT Vivid, visceral, and an eye-opener; for all serious readers.”
“Chau writes unflinching stories on desire and how they shape and adapt to who we are and what we come from.”
—Asian American Writer’s Workshop suggested reads
“Brilliant and strange, Chau’s arresting short stories delve into the emotional and sexual lives of second-generation Chinese-American women. In the first of the 16 stories making up Chau’s debut collection, grand-prize winner of the Santa Fe Writers Project’s inaugural 2040 books contest, an unnamed woman hooks up with an old acquaintance—”the closest thing to a Chinese guy I had sex with, and that wasn’t saying much”—and finds, post-coitally, she has been split in two. “We will both be you,” she explains to herself. “You know you have problems with the Chinese you. I will just be the Chinese you for you.” Like many of the stories here, it’s a premise that shouldn’t work (isn’t it a little heavy-handed?), but in Chau’s hands, it’s electric: Her writing is almost alarming in its clarity, crisp and unselfconscious. Other stories are firmly rooted in reality. “I See My Eye in Your Eye” traces the paths of two sisters as they diverge in early adulthood. The older one is getting married, having a baby, building “a legitimate life.” Our narrator is not. It puzzles her, how this happened. “Somebody Else in the Room” is a hauntingly lonely story about the dissolution of a relationship in all its phases: the beginning and the middle and the end and all the phases after the end, when she is alone with his ghost. The women in Chau’s stories are sharp and self-contained and unmoored, caught in moments of transition, going or coming from someplace else. The same elements configure and reconfigure, and while the details of their lives don’t match up, they are versions of each other, all of them wishing they were someone else. Chau is a distinctive voice, and if the stories are good, the sentences are even better.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“All Roads Lead to Blood heralds a writer who is up and coming. Chau’s debut collection [is] unafraid to be what it is – an important entry into the conversations of women and people of color and the issues they face, an invitation to observe and engage.”
—Will Rincon, Sinkhole
“All Roads Lead to Blood is a strong offering that masterfully explores both the power and the pain of female sexuality.”
—Jesi Buell, Heavy Feather Review
“…an exhilarating debut…honest and arresting. All Roads Lead to Blood will ring true to anyone who feels like they’re lingering on the path toward figuring themselves out.”
—Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed: The Best Books of Fall 2018
“…incisive, funny, and charming.”
—Vanessa Hua, The Paris Review
“The intensity and desire of youth, with the wisdom of wild imagination, fill these wonderful stories by Chau. This unforgettable, stellar debut kept surprising me with fantastical turns, and sharp, unsettling insights.”
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
“Chau’s voice is strong, the stories tense. Readers should snatch this collection up.”
—Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day