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new novel • C & R Press • releases September 15 2016

The Transnational 21st Century Novel

In THAT MAN IN OUR LIVES, New York-Hong Kong author Xu Xi extends the fictional universe of her earlier novels. New York is the perch from which she examines the shifting balance of power between China and the U.S., set against a tale of lifelong friendships between Gordon Ashberry — “Gordie” or “Hui Guo 灰果” — and his two best friends Harold Haight and Larry Woo and their families. Born to wealthy East Coast parents, Gordon is a Sinophile who has never held a job, married or raised children. His one attempt in his thirties to run an aircraft leasing business almost ends in bankruptcy and the loss of his inheritance. When Gordon turns fifty, he tells Harold, a tax lawyer, that he wants to give all his money away. An opportunistic young Chinese writer learns of this, she approaches him to write a book (Honey Money) about his decision, and upon publication it becomes a minor cult success. The ensuing publicity sends him into a self-imposed exile for several years, including from all his friends. The novel opens in March 2003 when Gordon is fifty-five and decides to disappear during a flight delay in Tokyo. The pre and post fallout around that disappearance informs this novel about the friend who has always been in your life, until he isn’t, and how much or little we know of those we think we know well. Originally inspired by John Adams’ opera “Nixon in China,” a large cast of characters traverse the globe in search of this missing protagonist, a Gatsby-ish figure with Chinese characteristics. THAT MAN IN OUR LIVES is Xu’s metafictional answer to the late 18th Century Chinese classic novel, Cao Xueqin’s Dreams of Red Chambers.

Praise for Xu's novel:

"Brilliantly explores what is perhaps the most fundamental dynamic of our existence, the profound interaction of two forces, one social and one personal: our connectedness with each other and our yearning to find a self. Beautifully refined in both intelligence and prose, this novel will not let a reader put it down." - Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

“That Man in Our Lives is a complex and compelling tale of the mysteries of love, friendship, and lives led between China and North America. Xu Xi takes us deep into the two cultures in a mesmerizing polyphonic plot woven around the disappearance of her Gatsby-like central character Gordon Ashberry, a Sinophile scion of a wealthy Connecticut family. Written by a truly transnational writer at the height of her powers, That Man in Our Lives educates and delights the reader at the same time.” - Vesna Goldsworthy, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia & author of the novel Gorsky

"A metaphysical novel that unravels the real and imagined political and cultural identities of both  inhabitants and expatriates in Hong Kong after it aweighed its colonial anchor and returned to China in 1997.   With candor, wile and wit, the main character Gordie adopts the personae of the Monkey King who unties this knot of ever more complex intimate and public experiences.  This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the merging and intractable financial and cultural intersections between China and the United States, and their everyday impact on their citizens." -  Alex Kuo, winner of the American Book Award & author of the novel shanghai.shanghai.shanghai

publications & media

“Here I Am” - The Normal School, California State Univ., Fresno, Spring 2016.

“Mariner” - Hunger Mountain, Montpelier, Vermont, Issue 20, March/April 2016.

“The Crying City” - Bellingham Review, Washington, Spring 2016.


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.


more news

other news

In March 2010, Xu Xi was named the first Writer-in-Residence at City University of Hong Kong.

In honor of Kathleen & B.T.