The Sorrows of Others
—National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree
The Sorrows of Others
Set in China and America, in the generations after the Cultural Revolution, The Sorrows of Others is a dazzling collection about people confronted with being outsiders—as immigrants, as revolutionaries, and even, often, within their own families.
In New York City, an art student finds an unexpected subject when she moves in with a grandmother from Xi’an, and boundaries are put into question. When a newlywed couple moves to Arizona, adapting to unfamiliar customs keeps their marriage from falling apart. A woman grapples with what it means to care for another, and the limits of that care, when her dying husband returns from Beijing years after abandoning her. And during a rainy summer in Texas, a visitor exposes the unspoken but unburiable history that binds two families together. Ada Zhang writes with startling honesty and love about lives young and old, in a stunning debut that explores what happens when we leave home and what happens when we stay, and the selves we meet and shed in the process of becoming.
is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in A Public Space, McSweeney’s, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. She is currently the James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the University of Wisconsin. The Sorrows of Others is her first book.
Writers with virtually perfect debuts are certainly rare; Zhang joins that short list with a magnificent ten-story collection filled with lost souls aching for connection on both sides of the world.
Booklist starred review
Zhang debuts with a remarkable collection... Zhang’s crystalline stories ring with moments of surprising truth about her characters’ lives. This will stay with readers.
Publishers Weekly starred review
Poignant and tragic… The Sorrows of Others is a tender short story collection in which loneliness and isolation shape lives.
Foreword starred review
Sharp and revelatory.
The New York Times
The characters in The Sorrows of Others would make an uncommon and special botanical collection had they been plants: They have their given roots—Chinese or Chinese American—that bind them to their shared history, and yet they also each nurture their own set of roots, expanding, liberating, and redefining themselves. Ada Zhang is a bighearted and sensitive writer, and these stories, looking simultaneously to the past and to the future, are a triumph.
Yiyun Li, author of The Book of Goose and Where Reasons End
I loved The Sorrows of Others, a luminous, moving collection of stories about love and family and belonging. Ada Zhang writes across generations with a rare sense of grace and precision. She is a young writer worth watching.
Jess Walter, author of The Angel of Rome and Beautiful Ruins
Ada Zhang doesn’t balk at the big matters—revolution, immigration, family, love, marriage, affairs, divorce, death—but the profound mysteries you hear in her prose live between the notes you know. In these stories the little hollows at the heart of all our hopes pool with sorrow, and that sorrow weighs like a duty, as fierce and binding as love. The restraint in this collection is unlike anything in our rather noisy and obvious age. The Sorrows of Others is masterful.
Charles D'Ambrosio, author of Loitering and The Dead Fish Museum
Each story in The Sorrows of Others is elegantly braided and brushed with a careful hand. This debut collection resists the temptations of flash and clamor, embracing a more modulated, substantial prose that resonates richly, with a deep understanding of character and of true mystery. Prepare to be ushered into the everyday fascinations of the various lives depicted here, and prepare at each story's end to be left wondering and aching.
Jamel Brinkley, author of A Lucky Man
Every once in a while, a new writer comes along whose stories are so naturally perceptive, empathetic, and intelligent that reading them feels like falling in love with the form all over again. The relationships Zhang's characters navigate are full of quiet ardor and tangled duties; at the heart of each story is found an urgent, private world rendered with care and skill. Rare is it to encounter a young writer whose voice is so assured; rarer still is it to read one capable of such calm, humane wisdom. The Sorrows of Others announces Ada Zhang as a major literary talent, one anyone who loves reading should experience.
Arna Bontemps Hemenway, author of Elegy on Kinderklavier
In these marvelous stories, Ada Zhang writes with ferocity and precision about feelings and situations I have seldom seen captured in fiction before: a woman caring for the dying husband who has abandoned her, a girl glimpsing what her grandparents have endured in China. Each story offers a deeply satisfying world, one I never wanted to leave. The Sorrows of Others is a brilliant debut.
Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field
These stories contain a rare and profound understanding of loneliness, in all its gestures, nuances, and variations: the loneliness of aging, of being othered, within families or in solitude, of a widower in Xi’an or a young professional in New York. Above all, Zhang has captured the essential loneliness of human interiority, the experience of being alone in one’s mind. Every story is written with grace and a light touch, scenes subtly washed with feeling as a skilled watercolorist floods a landscape with color. A wonderful debut.
Kim Fu, author of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
The world of Ada Zhang is wise and patient in its understanding of the human soul—how tender it is, how resilient and capacious, harboring both darkness and light. In this wide-ranging collection, each story arrives carrying the treasures of entire lives lived. Zhang's writing is transportive, timeless, and a pleasure to behold.
Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised
To read Ada Zhang’s collection The Sorrows of Others is to be in sublime relationship to human follies and to wisdom and to the silence that is cultivated between lines and after a story ends. This is a collection to savor and to reread.
Jai Chakrabarti, author of A Play for the End of the World
Zhang’s writing is careful, faceted, gleaming in its insight and meticulous observation, its beautiful sentences. But it is also radiant, softly glowing as if lit from within. Zhang loves her characters and also sees them with a mercilessly honest eye.
Sarah Thankam Mathews, Electric Literature
It’s rare to come across a collection where every story draws the reader in; each of Zhang’s stories is captivating and shows empathy in ways that could teach the general public a thing or two.
Susan Blumberg-Kason, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Zhang rejects reductive identity politics while still showcasing the distinct linguistic and cultural aspects of her characters’ Chinese and Chinese-American heritage.
Frances An, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
Like a flash, these stories are a burst of light, ending almost as soon as they start, but they leave a strong afterglow.
Alice Martin, Shelf Awareness
[Ada Zhang] builds each story carefully and quietly lets it rise to sudden moments of surprising power. She is indeed a writer to watch.
Si Dunn, Lone Star Literary Review
Belletrist, Recommended by Sarah Thankam Mathews
The Millions, Recommended by Jai Chakrabarti
International Examiner, Mention
National Book Foundation, 5 Under 35 Honoree
Debutiful, Recommended as a Can’t Miss Debut Book You Should Read in May
Brooklyn Museum, Writers on How Museums Fuel Their Creative Work
Ms. Magazine, Recommended on a list of new books being published by writers from historically excluded groups
The Center for Fiction, Recommended on a list of new books releasing in May
Literary Hub, Interview: Ada Zhang on the Complexity of Capturing Immigrants’ Lives in Fiction
Literary Hub, 21 New Books Out Today
Soapberry Review, Interview: Living past the extraordinary: A conversation with Ada Zhang
Platform, Debut Books: May 2023
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ada Zhang selected as the 2023-2024 James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.
Foreword Reviews, Book of the Day Roundup
Electric Literature, 9 Books About Asian American Women Exploring Identity and Sexuality
Shondaland, Interview: Authors to Watch: Ada Zhang’s ‘The Sorrows of Others’ Ruminates on Love, Loss, and the Beauty of Intergenerational Friendships
Katie Couric Media, 13 Books by AAPI Authors To Read This May and Beyond
Houston Press, Recommended in “Best Bets” column
Book Riot, 15 Excellent 2023 Short Story Collections by Asian Authors
Southern Review of Books, The Best Southern Books of May 2023
Iowa Magazine, Need a Summer Read? Check Out New Books by These Iowa Writers
Electric Literature, 7 Novels About People Feeling Out of Place
Electric Literature, 7 Short Story Collections That Draw From Setting to Build Characters
Debutiful, The Best Debut Books of 2023 (So Far)
Poets & Writers, First Fiction Feature
Los Angeles Times, Opinion: Texas is my home. But will it ever be ready to claim my Chinese immigrant family?
Electric Literature. The Must-Read Debut Short Story Collections of 2023