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Edinburgh
$17.00
Paperback
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BOOK DETAILS

  • Paperback
  • Nov.02.2001
  • 9780312305031
  • Picador USA

Alexander gives an overview of the book:

"Stunning . . .This novel marks the debut of a major talent whose career will bear watching." - Starred review, Publisher's Weekly "A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche and love shares the dance floor with death. . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming." - Washington Post Book World "Few coming of age novels truly stir one's emotions or lead readers to consider the traumas of their own lives. Edinburgh does both." - Newsday Fee, a Korean American boy growing up in Maine, inhabits a fantasy world of spirits and heroes. Gifted with a beautiful soprano voice, Fee sings in a professional boys choir. When the choir director's pedophilic urges are directed at Fee, he's unable to save himself, his first love, Peter, or his...
Read full overview »

"Stunning . . .This novel marks the debut of a major talent whose career will bear watching." - Starred review, Publisher's Weekly

"A coming-of-age novel in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche and love shares the dance floor with death. . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming." - Washington Post Book World

"Few coming of age novels truly stir one's emotions or lead readers to consider the traumas of their own lives. Edinburgh does both." - Newsday

Fee, a Korean American boy growing up in Maine, inhabits a fantasy world of spirits and heroes. Gifted with a beautiful soprano voice, Fee sings in a professional boys choir. When the choir director's pedophilic urges are directed at Fee, he's unable to save himself, his first love, Peter, or his friends, silent inside of what seems to him an inexplicable complicity and shame. Even after the director is arrested, tried and convicted, the damage of that time spreads outward, consuming Fee and the other boys in acts of increasingly desperate self-destruction.

Years later, when Fee meets a student of his who is the spitting image of Peter, he finds himself finally drawn into a confrontation with the ghosts and demons of his brutal past. There he finds the stories of his youth, in particular, the ones told to him by his Korean grandfather, show him the way out.

Read an excerpt »

The Lady Tammamo was a fox who fell in love with a man and took the shape of a woman in order to marry him. Her hair remained red and so she was feared, for at that time in Korea the only people with red hair were said to be demons. She was very beautiful, in the way of fox demons, and her husband loved her. And she loved him.
She bore her husband children, all sons. After some trouble in their village, for which she was blamed, they left and moved to a tiny island between Korea and Japan where they settled and were accepted by the fishermen there, who had seen many things and were not afraid of her. I’ll be safe here, she told her husband. And she was. Rumored to be from Mongolia, she told people, when they asked her where her clan was from, that it was a place where the sky bent the earth.

When her husband died and his family came to burn the body, she stood by him and stoked the fire under him. Her husband’s family watched her, afraid. Would she turn back into a fox, now that her husband was dead, and kill them all? Make their skulls into helmets and hunt the fishermen? She smiled at them, pressed her hand to her husband’s cold face, and stepped up onto the fire, which then rose until the family could not see them. The fox can breathe a fireball, if she likes, and it burned husband and wife both to ashes.

Her children, now without their mother, never learned to be foxes and so her descendants have lived as ordinary men and women since. The village sometimes wondered why Lady Tammamo fled into the fire when fox-demons can live to be hundreds of years old. Some felt they’d been wrong, and that perhaps she hadn’t been a demon after all. The children, seen sometimes selling their fish in the markets, were so beautiful and kind to everyone. You couldn’t see the red in their hair unless the sun shone right on it, and then you’d see it, red threads among the black.

My father tells me the story of her when I find a red hair on his head, growing from his left temple. This is all that remains of her, my father tells me, when he tells me the story. And he pulls the red hair out of his head and hands it to me.

When I show the red hair to my blond mother, she laughs. He always pulls that hair out, she says. I had a red-haired great-grandfather, you know.

My hair is brown. But in my beard, the red threads grow. I shave them. My name is Aphias Zhe. Aphias was the name of a schoolteacher in Scotland five generations back on my mother’s side. Zhe is the name every man in my father’s family has been called by since that first day we fished the sea between Korea and Japan, five hundred years ago. Aphias became Fee in the mouth of my friend Peter, and Fee became Fiji in college. But Fee is the name that stuck, because Peter gave it to me.

This is a fox story, of how a fox can be a boy. And so it is also the story of a fire.

alexander-chee's picture

Note from the author coming soon...

About Alexander

Alexander Chee is the author of the novel Edinburgh, a winner of the Asian American Writers' Workshop Lit Award, the Lambda Literary Awards' Editor's Choice Prize, and the Michener/Copernicus Prize. Edinburgh was selected as a Booksense 76 title and named...

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