Steer Toward Rock by Fae Myenne Ng
Steer Toward Rock has the speedy rhythm of jazz and the texture and tone of noir. It is a novel about family, work, ancestors, love and obligation to history.
Jack Moon Szeto, a name bought for him by his mother, enters the Port of San Francisco as the “blood” son of Yi-Tung Szeto. Childless by his first wife, Yi-Tung has listed Jack as a married man, and one day plans to bring his own replacement wife from China using Jack’s false marriage . These interwoven, false family ties give the reader some indication of how hard people struggled to come to the U.S. after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Jack’s life is owned, indebted. He learns to be a butcher, becomes part of the Chinatown community and then falls in love.
“I told him Joice said the sun was round and I heard the sun was square so it was impossible to fit ourselves into one sentence.
Louie laughed, Didn’t I worn you that too much worry leads to talk and too much talk led a man to his last dead end? Talking won’t do, women can talk the sun into setting. Nothing changes, we men are still sitting in darkness.” page 49
Steer Toward Rock is about stories, individual, familial and cultural. The characters are full, rich and alive. It is steeped in images of the Chinatown of the 1960’s, raucous with language, food, drink, games and culture. It moves quickly, like bebop, is filled with humor and compassion, and layered with immigrant history and political struggle. I think it is a wonderful book.
“Then I remembered Grandmother’s words: Telling is not necessarily loving. Once spoken, words take on a power beyond time. She taught me to weigh my words. Only the dead forget, only the dead had the power to take the stories away, only the dead truly forgave.” Page 241