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Linda Rui Feng Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Swimming Back to Trout River (2021)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

City of Marvel and Transformation (2015)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

The Reincarnated Giant(2017)Description / Buy at Amazon

Linda Rui Feng
Linda Rui Feng teaches at the University of Toronto, where her research in Chinese cultural history takes her often to long forgotten books from the ninth century and, more recently, to the history of aromatics and scent. She is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard College.

Linda was born in Shanghai, China, she lived in America for several years before she moved to Toronto, Canada.

“Swimming Back to Trout River” was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. It was also nominated for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel.

Linda has been awarded a MacDowell Fellowship for fiction twice, and her prose and poetry have appeared in journals like Kenyon Review Online, Washington Square Review, and The Fiddlehead.

She tells “Swimming Back to Trout River” in non chronological order because it was important to her that she tell the story in an order that has a logic of its own. This was something she found very trick to do. This was in an effort to reflect the nonlinear repercussions people and places have on our psyche, and how we live our lives in this forward manner yet we often make sense and remember our lives in this nonlinear way. So she wanted her storytelling format to reflect this messy process of experiencing and remembering. She really likes the idea of telling a story which is distinct from how we live our lives, and our parents’ lives, and grandparents’ lives.

Another challenge was to overcome this fear about not getting it right about the bigger historical forces playing out around each of these characters. The larger Cultural Revolution for Linda is something that is complex, momentous, and really tough to do correctly. It was a challenge to outrun her own doubts of if she could really pull it off.

There were so many moments while writing the novel that she wished she could just write more of “what she knows” as the saying goes, to tap much more directly into her own experiences and save energy and time fretting over whether she was getting something right. However as a writer, she’s drawn to things she doesn’t know, and she stubbornly wants to inhabit lives so unlike hers.

In one case, she got stuck writing about the youthful friendship and the eventual fallout of two university students in the early sixties in China, and in her desperation, she took this screenwriting class in order to reimagine the scene from a much more cinematic angle. It forced her to move away from pure interiority, and eventually pulled her out of that rut.

When Linda writes fiction she finds she is often attempting to chase down vital yet small moments of transformation in her characters’ lives, moments that would otherwise just slip away unnoticed if it weren’t for a certain kind of vigilance. She doesn’t believe that it’s a novelist’s job to make history “relevant” or “fresh”, however if she does her job well, her characters are inevitably going to illuminate an aspect of the past and throw windows open.

When Linda first started writing, she found herself just putting down what she was certain about: sentences that pop into her head fully formed, images, character traits which are relatively complete and insist upon their existence. This worked for a bit, however she obviously ran out of these certainties over time, and had to fashion what she was able to out of uncertainties and even bewilderment. She is learning to allow the process of writing itself draw out the diffident and fragmentary sentence, to allow it to take its time and clarify what the hell happens to this or that character, before she even has any clue.

“Swimming Back to Trout River” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2021. A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution which follows one dad’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday.

How many times are we able to start over without losing ourselves? During the summer of 1986, in a tiny Chinese village, Junie (ten years old) gets a momentous letter from her parents, who left for America years ago; her dad promises to come back for her on her twelfth birthday. However Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.

What Junie does not yet know is that Cassia and Momo, her parents, are newly estranged from each other in their adopted country, each of whom holds close private histories and tragedies from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. As Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical dreams and ambitions for Junie’s in America.

Cassia starts to finally wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from many years prior. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he has to make one final desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie’s birthday, even if that means dredging up some painful family secrets to light.

This novel weaves together the stories of Momo, Dawn (a talented violinist from Momo’s past), Junie, and Cassia, as it also depicts their resilience and heartbreak, and tenderly reveals the compromises, hope, and abiding ingenuity which make up immigrants’ lives.

Readers found this to be a thoroughly satisfying and impressive debut novel. It offers profound insight into human longing; how lives can become intertwined and complicated by fear, desire, and memory. Music and its riveting power connects all of Feng’s characters through time and space.

This is a beautifully written, poignant exploration of art, culture, family, immigration, and love. Fans of the book were swept away by Feng’s keen insights and fierce intelligence while her characters captured their hearts with their tender hopes and their bold actions. She writes with unflinching grace; she is precise yet exploratory, and delivers a narrative powerhouse of a novel. It’s a gorgeous novel that readers couldn’t put down.

The novel is a haunting yet beautiful story about a child’s persistence, a family’s journey, and a couple’s love.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Linda Rui Feng

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