Micro Review: YZ Chin's 'Edge Case'
When her husband suddenly disappears, a young woman must uncover where he went—and who she might be without him—in this striking debut of immigration, identity, and marriage. Poignant and darkly funny, Edge Case is a searing meditation on intimacy, estrangement, and the fractured nature of identity. In this moving debut, YZ Chin explores the imperfect yet enduring relationships we hold to country and family.
Micro Review from Nicole Zhu
Uncertainty permeates YZ Chin’s novel, Edge Case. Edwina, a Malaysian woman of Chinese descent, comes home to find that her husband, Marlin, has left her. With their work visas expiring soon, they’re at the mercy of the tech companies they work for to sponsor them for green cards. Edwina searches New York and her memories, trying to find a reason for Marlin’s abrupt departure and reflecting on her move to the United States. While she reexamines her marriage, she also reexamines the trajectory of her life and identity—the promises of immigration and its pitfalls.
Chin approaches Edwina’s outsider status with a combination of dark humor and earnestness. There are wry observations about absorbing the "stress" in an $18 prime rib sandwich after she abandons vegetarianism, and the lack of answers to her problems on the "American corner of the internet." Edwina jokingly confesses that "'fewer people body-shame me' is not a legitimate reason to emigrate." But beneath the surface, there are flashes of terror built on the uncertainty of "skilled immigration"—a confrontation with cops at a street festival, being detained at the airport with Marlin, and increasingly inappropriate comments from a male coworker that she can’t risk reporting.
Edwina works for an almost cartoonishly toxic workplace. But the descriptions of kombucha guzzling engineers are tempered by the careful selection and deployment of software engineering metaphors. It’s the company’s AI-powered joke-telling robot that intersects with Edwina’s fixation on language and humor, illustrating how even seemingly complex systems can be thoughtless and hacked together. As she comes to realize, proficiency and fluency can be a type of power.
Edge Case offers an expansive and nuanced view of the Asian/Asian American diaspora. Balancing the office politics with an exploration of past lives and parental relationships, Chin explores how one’s sense of self is molded by distance, grief, paperwork, and borders.
They didn’t get that I was born into diaspora, that I had merely moved from a place that wasn’t mine to another place that also wasn’t mine. To them, diaspora meant the arrival of the non-West into the West, that was all. (194)
I had seen through the lie that was the contemporary version of grieving, in which we bounced around online, swimming in a sea of information, trying on various data for size in order to find something that spoke to us. Grieving in the form of doing research, because we believed in productivity above all else. (235)
Maybe we’d both become lost, shuffling around puzzle pieces from unrelated jigsaw sets, aimlessly trying to form a coherent picture, deluding ourselves into believing that if we could make the elements come together in harmony, we would have produced some insight or breakthrough. Something like a revelation. (246-247)
Nicole Zhu is a writer and developer based in New York. Her short stories and essays have been published in Catapult, Eater, and Electric Literature. Subscribe to her newsletter for biweekly essays on writing and creative practices.
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