Home » Year of the Smoke Girl by Olivia J. Boler
Year of the Smoke Girl Olivia J. Boler

Year of the Smoke Girl

Olivia J. Boler

Published
ISBN : 9781883938789
Paperback
284 pages
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 About the Book 

As she lay dying, Khatia Quigleys mother gives Khatia a new name--the Chinese middle name of Wu Shan. This sets Khatia on a journey to define who and what she is, most evidently in terms of sexuality and race. The common struggle for identityMoreAs she lay dying, Khatia Quigleys mother gives Khatia a new name--the Chinese middle name of Wu Shan. This sets Khatia on a journey to define who and what she is, most evidently in terms of sexuality and race. The common struggle for identity theme is the core of Bolers promising first novel.A dead half-Chinese mother, a quiet war-tormented father, a distant brother and a female roommate-turned-lover constitute Khatias world, one in which she continually feels lost. A year after she and girlfriend Shoshonah graduate from college, Shoshonah asks Khatia to move with her to Amsterdam. Reluctantly, Khatia agrees to leave the safety of her familys New England home in exchange for the freedom of Europe. There, Khatia lands a job reading language tapes with friendly Dutchman, Ulrike, and she and Shoshonah share a few months of happiness.Shoshonahs problems with monogamy and Khatias bisexual tendencies soon cast a shadow on the relationship, and Khatia retreats to Paris for a short stint as a nanny. In her European travels, Khatia is constantly asked about her race- as a quarter Chinese, her darker features induce locals to ask if she is Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese, which leads her to question her lack of knowledge about her Chinese heritage. With her mothers dying words haunting her and her fathers looming disapproval, Khatia again relocates, this time to her moms hometown of San Francisco.Prompted by her brother, Porter, who has also begun to research his Asian roots, and her new boyfriend, Cree, Khatia finds her mothers estranged parents. Having disowned their daughter decades ago, Khatias grandparents reveal a shocking and disturbing family secret. As she unravels the story of her parents courtship and her fathers traumatic experiences in Korea, Khatia breaks her cycle of restlessness and quits smoking after exactly one year.Bolers strong sense of imagery throughout the novel often gives her writing a lyrical quality. Better organization would have strengthened the narrative (especially with several voices present), but Boler shows a lot of potential in her willingness to tackle cultural issues on an international canvas.