Observations of contemporary life that make monkeys of us: this existential disbelief thrums through speculative stories and essays in Xu Xi’s latest collection. These 16 short pieces, evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction, are in turn elegiac, satiric, darkly comic, lyrical, even confessional in tone, and traverse the inequities and abuse of power in sex, politics, race history, culture, and language across a disquieting transnational terrain. Prepare to be disturbed, enlightened, and maybe even entertained.
Publication date: Nov. 1, 2022
Print edition: 5″ x 8″ perfect bound trade paperback
Page count: 192
Price (paper): US$19.99
E-book formats: ePub, Kindle, PDF
Word count: 52,000
Price (e-book): US$9.99
- To know Hong Kong—or even to be curious about the city and its people—is to love Xu Xi’s work. Monkey in Residence is a brilliant blend of fact and fiction that captures the conundrum that is modern Hong Kong: once British, now Chinese, still seeking its own identity and freedom. The diverse pieces in this collection—some dark, some funny, some poignant—paint a portrait of a writer who has had a long love affair with a city, despite its imperfections, and knows she will never quite be able to leave it behind. Xu Xi’s tantalizing language, sprinkled with Chinese, is an absolute delight to read. ~ Clifford Garstang, author of What the Zhang Boys Know and The Shaman of Turtle Valley.
- Read this marvellous collection by Xu Xi, genre-defying essays and fiction that are truly writing without borders. Xu Xi writes from the perspective of her global life. Her literary references range across Hesiod and Ding Ling and Jonathan Swift. The elegance of her language is breath-taking. Fallen books are “an avalanche of words” and memory is “the crookedest path.” But beyond her inventiveness (I love the “end note”) and erudition, Xu Xi’s writing takes us into heartrending and complex longing for the spaces created by borders, especially for those we love and for the city in which her cosmopolitan being was nurtured, Hong Kong. I couldn’t put this book down, and when I was finished I started to read it again. ~ Kim Echlin, Canadian novelist, Toronto Book Award winner, author of Speak Silence, Under the Visible Life, The Disappeared etc.
- Illuminating and moving, Monkey in Residence & Other Speculations offers a frank discussion of language, people, and culture from a woman without borders living among and across nations. Uniting family, belonging, travel, and the quest for transnational identity, this stunning hybrid collection reveals how people are shaped by the environments they inhabit. The insight of Xu Xi’s writing is astounding. In search of the lost, she unravels the past to unveil the layered now. ~ Aimee Parkison, Suburban Death Project and Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman.
- Keenly observed, richly textured, and often slyly humorous, Xu’s aptly named speculations create space for childhood recollections of a vanishing Hong Kong to shimmer alongside her characters’ lucidly imagined inner landscapes and her own surreal dispatches from the ever-shifting present. In these fluidly multilingual accounts of displacement and discovery, Xu deftly blurs the lines between memoir, photojournalism, fiction, and satire to invite readers to consider “the many different ways of being” – and to wonder about their own place in it all. ~ Inez Tan, This Is Where I Won’t Be Alone.
- Monkey in Residence is a book above and beyond categories: Xu Xi blends memoir, jazz riffs and elegies in a tribute to Hong Kong, ‘crossroads of the world.’ Hong Kong, she writes, taught her to open herself “to languages, cultures, accents, and other ways of being Chinese; a way of being, of feeling that you can belong in your own skin, without compromise.’ – Ideas important to us all. ~ Anna Sherman, The Bells of Old Tokyo.
- Xu Xi continues to amaze and inspire in her book Monkey in Residence and Other Speculations. She is insightful and wise, her prose is poetic, original, and at times, even funny. She takes us on unforgettable journeys that continually surprise. This book is a must-read, one I won’t forget. ~ Kim Chinquee, Associate Professor of English, Co-Director, Writing Major, SUNY-Buffalo State – Snowdog, Wetsuit, Shot Girls.
- Playful yet critical, ironic yet passionate, Xu Xi’s speculative memoir negotiates between past and present, fact and fiction. “Memory is currency,” notes Xu Xi, a former Hong Kong resident who observes the disappearance of a city with the urgency of personal memories and reimagination. Writing across languages and cultures, Xu Xi has embarked on a challenging quest toward understanding our place in the globalized world, complicating the many meanings of the word “home.” ~ Dorothy Tse – Snow & Shadow.
- In this relentlessly inventive collection, Xu Xi gives us an in-between Hong Kong, culturally hybrid and casually polyglot. Xu’s “speculations” weave between fact and fiction, from personal essay to short story, memoir to satire, as elusive and allusive as her playful, slippery sentences. Xu has been instrumental in carving out the space for global Asian voices on the world literary stage, and this book is a work of true — to borrow Xu’s term — “transnational patriotism”. ~ Antony Dapiran, author of City on Fire: The Fight for Hong Kong.
- Monkey in Residence unmasks the absurdities that have shaped Hong Kong as a disorienting space, and illuminates the profound ambivalence with which we embrace and resist the city. Between portrayals of translational lives and identities, reminiscences of lost loves and the silenced dead, and surreal glosses on an indefinable reality, Xu Xi’s work challenges us to look at the “way of being” that is Hong Kong. It is a searing reflection on the revisions of history and the city’s descent into farce. ~ Nicolette Wong, Writer-in-Residence, Research Centre for Human Values, Department of English, Chinese University of Hong Kong.
- In When Your City Vanishes, Xu uses the COVID pandemic as a pressure point, one that leverages the dissolution of time to question dreams, memories, and futurity. ~ Patrick Thomas Henry, MQR.
- “Subverting the sentence, paragraph and the page”: A Conversation with Xu Xi – curated by Kristina Marie Darling in the Tupelo Quarterly.
- Don’t let the humor and playfulness of this genre bending work fool you. The real mission is to keenly and incisively peel back the layers of absurdity and illusion and reveal our hubris. Xu Xi’s Monkey in Residence & Other Speculationsis a brilliant work by a contemporary master of form. ~ Hasanthika Sirisena, author of Dark Tourist and The Other One.
XU XI 許素細 has authored or edited nineteen books, most recently This Fish Is Fowl (Nebraska 2019) and The Art and Craft of Asian Stories (Bloomsbury, 2021). An Indonesian-Chinese native of Hong Kong, she has long split her life between New York and Hong Kong. A diehard transnational, she is also founder of Authors at Large and the Mongrel Writers Residence™. She currently occupies the Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. Follow her @xuxiwriter on FB, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Also by Xu Xi:
Chinese Walls (novel)
Daughters of Hui (short fiction)
Hong Kong Rose (novel)
The Unwalled City (novel)
History’s Fiction (fiction)
Overleaf Hong Kong (short fiction & essays)
Evanescent Isles: From My City-Village (essays)
Habit of a Foreign Sky (novel)
Access (short fiction)
Interruptions (ekphrastic essays with photography by David Clarke)
That Man in Our Lives (novel)
Dear Hong Kong: An Elegy for a City (memoir)
City Voices: Hong Kong Writing in English (with Mike Ingham)
City Stage: Hong Kong Playwriting in English (with Mike Ingham)
Fifty-Fifty: New Hong Kong Writing
The Queen of Statue Square: New Short Fiction from Hong Kong (with Marshall Moore)
On page 35 of the print book, there is a typo that wrongly states the year of SARS as 2013 instead of 2003. The correct sentence should be as follows.
“Silence in Hong Kong is rare, as are streets emptied of crowds, and March of 2003 remains memorable for this because of SARS.”