Transparency is the debut collection of short stories from Frances Hwang. All of these stories are very well constructed and full of emotional complexity. They are also deceiving and intriguing, in the sense that so much of these characters is held just out of sight of the page, yet she is able to convey the desperation and turbulence to the reader through her beautiful language and careful construction.
This is a remarkable collection that will engage a wide range of discerning readers. Two were in Best New American Voices and, as you can see from the blurbs and back cover copy, the collection is heavily lauded as both well-written and relevant to the "immigrant experience."
Each story is a delicate collision: between family, friends, cultures, generations. Frances Hwang chronicles believable characters in complex situations; her sly prose weaves turbulent emotions underneath a patina of decorum.
While I must admit that Frances is a former mentor at the University of Wisconsin and there isn't a more generous person I've met, that isn't why I love these stories. They are all carefully and meticulously written, yet the characters themselves are thrust into challenging emotional conflicts, often causing pain or confusion they've intentionally ignored or they've been unaware of to seep to the surface through the cracks in their daily lives.
In this manner, these stories are similar to those in The Dead Fish Museum--believable characters placed in complex realities. In Transparency, the results are less surprising, more mundane; the emotional weight is the same, though, and that is the reward of this collection.
Whether you are interested in compelling and complex characters and conflicts, well-written literary stories, polished prose, or social, cultural, and generational chasms, Transparency is a refreshing and memorable read--and likely the first offering from a writer who will be critically notable and widely-read in the very near future.