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Mary Jean Chan Books In Order

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Flèche (2019)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Mary Jean Chan is a British Chinese author and poet. Her debut novel was 2018 published “Fleche” that she published through Faber & Faber. The award-winning author was awarded the Costa Book Award in 2019. The novel also made the shortlist for the Poetry Prize by the John Pollard Foundation International in 2020 and the Dylan Thomas Prize in the same year. Mary Chan is the winner of the Oxford Brookes ESL category International Poetry Competition. Her debut novel “Fleche” made the shortlist for the International Poetry Prize by the John Pollard Foundation, the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2020. It was also a book of the year by The White Review, The Irish Times, and The Guardian.

In 2017, Mary Chan was the runners up in the National Poetry Competition. She also made the shortlist for Best Single Poem Forward Prize and won the 2019 Eric Gregory Award. The title poem from her best-selling book “Fleche” won the Geoffrey Dearmer Prize by the Poetry Society. Chan has been featured in the likes of Modern Poetry in Translation, Guardian Review, PN Review, The Poetry Review, and Poetry London. She is also a literary critic and her work has been featured in the Journal of British & Irish Innovative Poetry, and the Journal of American Studies. The Hong-Kong born Chain currently teaches poetry and creative writing at Oxford Brookes University and makes her home in London.

Mary Jean Chan went to the Chinese University of Hong Kong business school for the most part because of the pressure from her parents. Granted the university is not known for producing creative authors and hence she says that the most pivotal moment of her career was when she decided to quit. She had always wanted to become an author but in a moment of desperation that bordered on depression, she decided to take the jump and go for her dreams. She is now a twenty-nine-year-old living in the adopted home of London. It is still hard to understand why someone with her thoughtfulness and sensitivities would ever want to pursue a career as a financier or hard-bitten banker. Mathematics had been her worst subject and she never had a head for numbers though her parents were still taken aback when they learned that she quit to go become an author. Nevertheless, she has asserted that had she not endured more than a year banging her head on walls trying to wrap her head around accounting, she would not have ended up in anthropology. It also led to her meeting with the professor that told her to go study at Swarthmore College in the United States where she fell in love with poetry. It started as a hobby but soon became a burning passion and then a career.

“Fleche” by Mary Jan Chan is a moving collection of poems about love, dislocation, and queerness. Throughout it all, the work is about a mother figure who is more than the author’s mother. She had difficulty coming to terms with the fact that Chan was a lesbian. Mary Chan also talks about the relationship between her mother country Hong Kong and Chinese which was her mother tongue growing up. Chan happens to be a bilingual author as she can speak both Cantonese and English and this is evident in her poems that tell of her multilingual capabilities. For the author, English is an imperialist tool and argues that being multilingual can become something that affects one’s life especially when the person has more than one identity too. To get through the quagmire, Chan writes experimental poems that invite and excludes non-speakers and speakers through its Chinese characters. There is a thought-provoking though nuanced forceful aspect to the anthology that tells of the relationship between daughter and mother. The collection may be described as both self-consciously fragile as well as proudly defiant.

Mary Jean Chan’s latest work “A Hurry of English” is an assured and deft pamphlet that both internal and external. It shows her struggle to forge new relationships with her country of origin and her parents even as she reconciles herself with the desires and beliefs of her new self. The poems in the collection combine crystalline language with raw emotion and are a beautiful addition to the queer poetry and writing not only in the UK but across the globe. They are stories of salvation, a testament to the possibility and pain of a life lived to obligations to family and to oneself, to countries and to cities.

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