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from the reviews

"A whirlwind, wise introduction to the complicated joys of multiculturalism, This Fish Is Fowl is intensely personal yet fully engaged with the world, celebrating our differences as well as our shared universal experiences."—Foreword Reviews, starred


"Broad-ranging, introspective, and honest essays that reveal a fine writer's experiences, mind, and heart."—Kirkus


praise from other writers

"There is absolutely no one like Xu Xi. To read these smart, inventive, and always surprising essays is to be given a passport to a transnational perspective the world sorely needs at this moment. Xu Xi's sense of identity: Indonesian/Chinese/American/Hong Kong is not mixed up (though she likes to label herself a 'mongrel'), but expansive. Identity for her has almost nothing to do with borders but with a kind of echolocation—sending forth her speculations on what it means to be a traveler, a daughter, a life partner, a woman in order to determine a shifting but remarkable path through geographies of being."—Robin Hemley


"In an age of willful ignorance, parochialism, and a dominant prose style typified by misspelled tweets, Xu Xi's writing is smart, international, and fluid. She navigates smoothly between not only countries and continents but, perhaps hardest of all, family members. Here the personal isn't just political; it's global. And, most important, deeply compassionate."Sue William Silverman


"This Fish is Fowl: Essays of Being explores the life of one whose shredded passport is never large enough to hold it all. Woven into skillful family story are topics ranging from the status of Dreamers in the U.S. to the 'crying city' of Hong Kong after the Occupy Movement, all dancing around the question of what it means to belong. With so many countries gripped by a new and brutal nationalism, Xu Xi reminds us there is another side—a world lived by many between a blur of borders. Part breezy, leaping memoir, part social commentary, this book adds a crucial chapter to the old story of national identity."—Susanne Antonetta

Insignificance (2018)

From the reviews 

A keen, observant chronicler of human foibles, Xu Xi's prose is as eminently readable as ever, mostly prioritising lucidity and directness but with occasional rhetorical flourishes, and her articulation of human emotional complexity instinctively feels true to life.  South China Morning Post June 4, 2018


Her engrossing, whirlwind metafictional tales effectively demonstrate the far-reaching effects of politics and culture on the smallest, most personal aspects of Hong Kong people's daily lives. World Literature Today September, 2018


In the media

Xu speaks to Lily Rimmer of the UK's Glass Magazine

Dear Hong Kong (2017)

From the reviews

Xu's memoir is an unique take on the love-hate, hope-despair relationship that is so familiar to those who are from Hong Kong or have made this city their home. Zolima City Magazine Aug 7, 2017


What really opens this book to a wider audience is that it's as much about the history of Hong Kong as it is about her. And a Hong Kong that is long gone . . . For a female reader the book is a joy, told as it is by a woman who comes across as a truly free spirit. The News Lens International Aug 2, 2017

Recent Media Coverage

publications & media


Edited by Jina Ortiz & Rochelle Spencer, with a foreword by Helena Maria Viramontes, this exciting new anthology is, according to Pulitzer fiction author Junot Diaz, "electrifying and absolutely necessary." Xu Xi's work is the title story and the volume features twenty-seven stories by women of color. Published in November, 2014 by the University of Wisconsin press.

ALL ABOUT SKIN named a Ms. Magazine 2014 must-read feminist book of the year.


20110823_MingPao (1.64 MB)

明 報 feature in the Ming Pao “Writing & Camels” (in Chinese): August 23, 2011

2011-Glass (1.67 MB)

UK Glass Magazine feature: March 2011

2011-CityWeekend (202 KB)

Beijing City Weekend review "subtle book. . . full of the nuances that characterize real life, love and loss."

more news

other news

In honor of Kathleen & B.T.