Named a Most Anticipated Title of 2021 by:
Elle, Esquire, O Magazine, Buzzfeed, Newsweek, Refinery29, Lit Hub, The Millions, Bustle, Redbook, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Write or Die Tribe, Autostraddle, and The Buzz Magazines
Named a Best Book of February by Washington Post,O Magazine, Harper's Bazaar,Buzzfeed, and The Millions
An Indie Next Pick
Named a Most Anticipated Title by a Woman of Color for 2021 by R.O. Kwon in Electric Literature
An Afar Media Book Club Selection
The Nervous Breakdown Book Club Selection
A Featured New Release from Lit Hub,The Millions, and Book Riot
A Featured Debut from A Mighty Blaze
"A stirring and brilliant collection of stories probing the contradictions and beauties of modern China, Te-Ping Chen's debut is both love letter and sharp social criticism. Through scenes firmly planted in reality as well as tales of the bizarre and magical, Chen reveals portraits lovingly rendered with insight from her years as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal."
"Remarkable...Unfolds across the modern Chinese diaspora, pinballing between acutely observed realism and tragicomic magical realism...Each haunting, exquisitely crafted story poses powerful questions about freedom, disillusion, and cultural thought, firmly establishing Chen as an emerging visionary to watch."
"Dazzling...Rich and varied...Chen unleashes a powerful and enticing new voice, at times as strange as the dark fairy tale master Carmen Maria Machado, at others as inventive as the absurdist king George Saunders—but always layered with the texture available to a foreign correspondent who has seen it all...Story by story, in China and the U.S., Chen builds a world in which oppression and contentment coexist, not some awful near future but the bizarre here and now...At its most elegant, a Chen story isn’t all an artful reimagining of a cool newspaper feature but instead something more imagistic and elemental, a reflection on how we all live, no matter where we live. The logic of her observations can be terrifying. There is virtuoso writing, which serves to sharpen her political allegories...Perhaps the secret ingredient in Chen’s fusion of reporting chops and creative force is her core insight into human nature: that in the face of loneliness, unfairness, oppression, we rationalize; we cling to small comforts."
—Los Angeles Times
"As brilliant an instance of a journalist's keen eye manifesting in luminous fiction as one can find...Chen evinces a capacity to sweep with astonishing ease from individuals to communities, from the settled middle-class to rural poverty, from blazing dissidents to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) loyalists...[An] unlikely page-turner...Pretty much everything about Land of Big Numbers is specific and keen yet somehow generalizable. These stories could appear as news right now, at any moment...The broad strokes of it all, truly, could happen anywhere—maybe right where you are. It is a gift to read stories like this...Thank goodness for journalists like Chen, who even with fiction can teach us so much."
"[A] blazingly talented newcomer...The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Chen is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who spent several years covering Hong Kong and Beijing for the newspaper. In her debut story collection, Land of Big Numbers, she moves effortlessly between the two countries, illuminating the lives of ordinary, often damaged, people on both sides of the Pacific...Chen has said she’s interested in the trade-offs people are willing to make to prosper under repressive regimes, yet she is the least didactic of writers. Her characters are finely etched, often quirky, sometimes wonderful...These stories combine...the unadorned clarity of the very best newspaper writing and the inspired, weird, poetic inventions of fiction. Chen is the real deal."
"This sharp collection of short stories about modern China...is as fine a portrayal of the last decade as any work of nonfiction. The stories range from tragic to satirical, but they’re rooted in a close observation of life in China—and in the surreal ups and downs of everyday life, bureaucracy, and oppression."
"As a Wall Street Journal correspondent, Chen lived longer in Beijing than anywhere except her U.S. hometown. Her stories in this collection, following various Chinese characters, consider the very big question of what freedom means. The answers may surprise Chen’s fellow Americans."
"The masterful short fiction in this debut collection from a lauded journalist alchemizes her flair for reportage and a novelist’s gift of intimate grandiosity, portraying modern China and its denizens as a people in transition."
—O, the Oprah Magazine, 20 Best Books of February
“Brimming with tales of men and women in modern China desperately seeking a sense of reinvention.”
—O, the Oprah Magazine, with publication of the story "Hotline Girl"
"[A] vibrant debut...Uses magical realism (think a piece of fruit that reveals repressed memories) to depict the realities of China’s diverse people."
"Te-Ping Chen has one of the year’s big debut books...Chen calls her new collection of short stories set in China a 'love letter to the country as well as cultural criticism,' and you can feel that push and pull throughout Land of Big Numbers...Its pages are populated by everyday folks living and loving, and trying to navigate the rules and cruelties of a government that’s always looming just out of frame. Chen, who has traveled widely in China as a Wall Street Journal correspondent...employs magical realism with such a light touch it’s often difficult to distinguish the real-world absurdities from her inventions...That’s the China you find in Land of Big Numbers, one full of facets and fractions, a place that cannot be contained by one story, a place where, she says, 'over the top' elements are easily 'braided' into the real."
"Exquisitely observed...The stories are tethered to the realities of political repression and class yet are imbued with elements of magical realism. Together, they create a vivid portrait of life in contemporary China that is stifled by state control and yet tinged with humor, irony and tremendous longing."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Sophisticated and startling...In Chen's tour de force, 'Gubeikou Spirit,' a group of passengers is stranded in a subway station, at first for a few hours, then days, and then in a surreal stretch, they are left in the station for months. Officials bring in food and mattresses and a giant TV, while guards prevent them from leaving.The passengers debate what to do: to obey ...