On sale October 17, 2023
A Chinese railroad worker and his young daughter—sold into servitude—in 19th century California search for family, fulfillment, and belonging in a violent new land
Heaven and earth do not pick and choose.
They see everything as straw dogs.
Library Journal, A Most Anticipated Book of the Year
“Hauntingly beautiful and exquisitely written, Straw Dogs of the Universe shines much-needed light on a historical period that we must not forget if we want to do better as a human race. This book is a treasure, to be read and re-read, as the best poems should be.” —Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, internationally bestselling author of The Mountains Sing and Dust Child
"A visceral and poetic work of art—Ye Chun’s grasp of our shared history, of her unforgettable characters, and of the vast sweep of this narrative can only be marveled at: who else could tell us the story of Chinese settlement in California as if it were an adventure tale filtered through the lens of Thomas Hardy? That the writing here is so insightful, so clear and vibrant and heartbreaking, is a testament to the overwhelming talent of one of our finest authors." —Brian Castleberry, author of Nine Shiny Objects
"Ye Chun writes with depth and precision about the power of the human spirit—its resilience, tenderness, darkness, and yearning—even under the harshest of circumstances. Straw Dogs of the Universe is a luminous, unforgettable story about the terror and beauty of life for Chinese immigrants in the early American West. It will leave you aching by its end." —Alexandra Chang, author of Days of Distraction and Tomb Sweeping
"Impressive in scope, with unflinching historical detail and effortless storytelling, Ye Chun’s Straw Dogs of the Universe is a magnificent addition to the growing tradition of historical fiction that rectifies the gaps and silences around the contributions of the Chinese workforce to the 19th century American West. An unforgettable story of people who, despite horrific violence, betrayal, and loss, grow into the truest and strongest versions of themselves." —Melissa Fu, author of Peach Blossom Spring
An Indie Next selection, a Lit Hub's Best Book of 2021, New York Public Library's Best Book of 2021, an Electric Lit's Favorite Short Story Collection of 2021, and longlisted for 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
“There's not a story in Hao that's anything less than gorgeous. Ye, who's also a literary translator, has an uncanny ability to explore the vocabularies that we build around ourselves, the ways that we communicate, and what happens when those break down. It's a beautiful collection that looks at people who have nothing but their words — until they don't.” —NPR
“Slow, somber and often elegant, Hao thematically foregrounds language. Rather than reproducing the trite ethos of language as power, Ye shows how words operate as weapons, comforts, memories and insufficient — if sometimes beautiful — representations of intent.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Each of Ye’s dozen stories astounds.” —Booklist (starred review)
“These battles are fought with pens, stick figures, tender drawings on a child’s back; silent screams are in the background.” —Kirkus (starred review)
“Lapidary, understated, unflinching and intimate, the pieces in Ye Chun’s debut short story collection Hao offer at the same time a prismatic, expansive, historical vision of the complex, often dire circumstances of a host of Chinese female characters across time and place.” —On the Seawall
“These stories are immaculate, beautiful, tattered — like their characters.” —Vulture
“Ye Chun’s gorgeous collection turns our attention to Chinese women. They are wives and mothers. They are immigrants and graduate students. They are bridges between continents...More than anything, Hao is a love letter to language.” —Lit Hub
“With its gorgeous, insight-laden prose, the collection leaps across oceans and generations, cities and historical epochs. While leaping across them, though, it threads them together.” —The Rupture
“These beautiful, profound stories are love songs to a daughter, tirades against an unjust world, and, above all, radiant meditations on Chinese history and language. Each story builds on the last with brilliance, power, and page-turning racing energy. Surely this book will be among the best story collections of the year.” —DEB OLIN UNFERTH, author of Barn 8
“That language must be used precisely to have power feels both obvious and too often overlooked, but in Ye Chun's Hao, we're shown not only the continually precise and gorgeous renderings of words and phrases, but the power this can have to conjure specific ways of being, to argue against so many silent violences, and to feel like its own type of taking care. Each of these stories is an individual world brought to life fully by the particularity of its language, by Ye’s extraordinarily far-reaching and deeply felt imagination, combined with her consistently stunning acuity and control.” —LYNN STEGER STRONG, author of Want
“Ye Chun captures the complexities of human emotion with a fine chisel and poet's eye, moving deftly between themes of motherhood, loss, and migration. Hao is a richly imagined, satisfying collection, one that invites you to stay, to linger and be moved.” —TE-PING CHEN, author of Land of Big Numbers
“Through everything the women in these stories confront—oppressive regimes, immigrant struggles, infertility, the pain of motherhood—the beauty of Ye Chun’s writing lifts them up. From loneliness and devastation, this exquisite collection fashions a tribute to human resilience and the solace of language.” —POLLY ROSENWAIKE, author of Look How Happy I’m Making You
“Hao is an unsettling, hypnotic collection spanning centuries, in which language and children act simultaneously as tethers and casting lines, the reasons and the tools for moving forward after trauma. You’ll come away from this beautiful book changed.” —JULIA FINE, author of The Upstairs House
“Few books capture the raw terror and exultation of motherhood, and of the implications of language itself, as gorgeously as this one. To say that Hao moved me doesn't feel like enough: I felt changed on the other side of these magnificent stories. Hao is pure triumph.” —CLARE BEAMS, author of The Illness Lesson
Interviews in Los Angeles Review of Books, Catapult, Phoebe, PC News, & Soapberry Review
Travel Over Water
Selected Poems of Hai Zi
Poems by Yang Jian
Photo by Mira Feifei Ye-Flanagan
Ye Chun / 叶春 (Surname: Ye) is a bilingual Chinese American writer and literary translator. She was born in Luoyang, China and came to the U.S. in 1999. She received an MFA in Poetry from the University of Virginia and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Missouri. She has published a collection of stories, Hao, and two books of poetry, Travel Over Water and Lantern Puzzle, which won the Berkshire Prize. Her novel in Chinese,《海上的桃树》(Peach Tree in the Sea) was published by 人民文学出版社 / People’s Literature Publishing House in 2011. Her novel, Straw Dogs of the Universe, is forthcoming from Catapult in October, 2023.
She has published four volumes of translations, including Ripened Wheat: Selected Poems of Hai Zi, shortlisted for the 2016 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Award, and Long River: Poems by Yang Jian. Her translations of Li-Young Lee's Behind My Eyes and Undressing,《眼睛后面: 李立扬诗歌》, and Galway Kinnell's The Book of Nightmares,《梦魇之书》, came out from People's Literature Publishing House in 2019 and 2021.
A recipient of an NEA Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award, and three Pushcart Prizes, she teaches at Providence College.
She is represented by Caroline Eisenmann at Frances Goldin Literary Agency.