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
Named a Best Book of the Year So Far by Esquire and the BBC
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 Great Story Collection of 2021 by an Asian-American Author from Book Riot
A Featured Debut from A Mighty Blaze
One of The Nerd Daily's 6 Must-Read Story Collections by POC Authors
“Dazzling...Riveting...Chen excels at gritty realism, vividly portraying the widening gap between China’s haves and have-nots...Though the characters never mention the Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward or Tiananmen Square massacre by name, the turmoil of the past haunts them as they rush headlong into the future."
—New York Times Book Review
"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."
"Provocative...Where a news story limits itself to questions that can be answered, Chen’s fiction embraces uncertainty and contradiction that at times make it feel truer than a dispatch...Chen’s stories are concerned with the poetry of mundane details. Readers of contemporary American fiction, which often charts the rhythms of the everyday, will find the stories in Land of Big Numbers familiar and accessible...Chen has a gift for allegory...Chen echoes some of Lahiri’s tone. Their characters grapple with alienation, loneliness, indecision, and inertia but are not usually beset by plot-churning death or disaster. Both authors resist endings that force a resolution or a revelation. Instead, their stories fade out softly, like a rung bell...Her fiction is not shorthand—nor is it journalism—but it manages to capture the humanity behind the headlines. With so many lines cut between the United States and China, the small cross-cultural bridge that Chen builds with Land of Big Numbers feels particularly welcome."
"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."
—Foreign Policy, Book Recommendation
"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