This fresh and unique work of metafiction follows a graphic novelist losing control of his own narrative as he attempts to write a polished retelling of his fraught upbringing in 1980s Chinatown.
In a Chinatown housing project lives twelve-year-old Benny, his ailing grandmother, and his strange neighbor Constantine, a man who believes he’s a reincarnated medieval samurai. When his grandmother is hospitalized, Benny manages to survive on his own until a social worker comes snooping. With no other family, he is reluctantly taken in by Constantine and soon, an unlikely bond forms between the two.
At least, that’s what Yu, the narrator of the story, wants to write.
The creator of a bestselling comic book, Yu is struggling with continuing the poignant tale of Benny and Constantine and can’t help but interject from the present day, slowly revealing a darker backstory. Can Yu confront the demons he’s spent his adult life avoiding or risk his own life…and Benny’s?
“A nuanced, complex and highly original novel, equal parts harrowing and illuminating. Kevin Chong’s language is endlessly readable, bursting with pain, humor and invention. Remarkable.” —Charles Yu, National Book Award-winning author of Interior Chinatown
“The Double Life of Benson Yu hit me like a katana blade. It’s a funny and large-hearted coming of age story, wrapped inside of a wise and surprising take on the creative process. But it’s more than that. It’s also a moving testament to the strange, freeing power of fiction—to how the imagination can help loosen the relentless grip of trauma. I won’t forget this book, and neither will you.” —Sam Graham-Felsen, award-winning author of Green
“The Double Life of Benson Yu is a thought-provoking, gutsy novel from an accomplished risk taker. A daring and enriching book that lingers in the mind long after reading.” —Iain Reid, New York Times bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, Foe, and We Spread
“Instructive as it is inspiring, The Double Life of Benson Yu is a phenomenal example of a writer taking real risks in order to reveal and reckon with deep-rooted, tormenting truths as a means of moving forward. Kevin Chong has crafted a novel that will get your heart pumping, mind jumping, and, best of all, fingers turning. Get ready to laugh and have your expectations defied. I can only imagine how many people this book will help.” —Mateo Askaripour, New York Times bestselling author of Black Buck
“An uncompromising exploration of toxic masculinity and cycles of abuse. Rather than opting for easy answers, this novel faces its demons and finds its catharsis in the powerful medicine of embracing the truth. A triumphant and important novel.” —Seth Fried, author of The Municipalists