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World Journal

review by Sau-ling Wong











All Stories Float Ashore: Fae Myenne Ng on the Chinese Titanic Poet-Sailor Deportee 


"Men of Exclusion held truth close, sailing like the wind into a port of safety."




The Rescue Ship


Icebergs in Iceland, September 2023

Rosina Lee Yue












 Do you know the name of this American hero who first alerted authorities on 9/11?




Betty Ann Ong 鄧月薇

February 5, 1956 – September 11, 2001
















Michelle Yeoh presents her Oscar at her father's gravesite













































"In our childhood, my sister and I heard no fairy tales, no love stories. We only heard tales of woe." 


Not just a family portrait, but also a powerful remembrance of the "orphan bachelors" of San Francisco, single men who arrived from China and, segregated by race and class, never found spouses and grew old in one another's company, never quite at home in a strange land.











In this "book of living memory," ...the author's straightforward prose and the work's staggering scope bring home the myriad ways misguided policies damaged generations of immigrant families. Readers will be rapt.













Ng presents a luminous memoir, finding transformative, aching authenticity in revealing difficult lives..

...her exceptional storytelling elucidates and illuminates.














One of the most moving chapters in the book tells the story of Ng moving to New York, where she was "instantly home," and her friendship with the painter Moira Dryer.
...beautifully written, powerfully informative and never boring. In her prologue, Ng warns: "When writing, consider the vessel of time that holds a story. Maybe that's also a guide on how to read this book. When reading, honor what you can't fully inhabit." Thanks to Ng's fierce talent and unapologetic honesty, "Orphan Bachelors" is a revelation. 












A powerful, deeply expressive memoir. 

...fiery prose and deeply informed, nuanced perspective on one of the most caustic, exclusionist eras in history.








Ng's strange, hilarious, highly specific accounts of her personal life, such as that of caring for her late brother Tim's pet tortoise Dewdrop, who she believes is a girl until his penis becomes enlarged due to a gallstone; subsequently, she calls him Mister Dewdrop. This story carries layers of meaning: Ng returns again and again to the idea of exclusion as a means of controlling the sexuality and reproductive choices of Asian people, a kind of metaphorical castration but also effectively as real as the operation Mister Dewdrop may be forced to undergo.














All his life, Ng's father would say to her, "America didn't have to kill any Chinese; her [Exclusion] law assured none would be born."












Fae Myenne Ng's luminous, sometimes sorrowful, memoir recounts how racist U.S. immigration policies have shrouded four generations of her family in secrets and mystery.

Orphan Bachelors feels intimate and evocative, quiet rather than strident. Ng's grace as a storyteller makes it possible to understand in one's bones how heartless policy bends and misshapes lives for generations.