“Empire of Glass is a bold and luminous book, a novel that captures the great upheavals of history and the smallest fissures in family life with equal attention, intimacy, and insight. Kaitlin Solimine has found an affecting, unexpected angle from which to understand China’s tumultuous recent past: the relationship between the American homestay student and her Chinese parents is at once tender, complicated, and moving, and her attempts at telling their story a reminder that translation can be both a baffling responsibility and a profound act of love.”—National Book Award and PEN/Faulkner finalist Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
“Intriguing and touching, Empire of Glass is a boldly imagined work that succeeds with its stylistic risks as a great novel and also a compelling read!”—Heidi W. Durrow, author of the New York Times bestseller The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
“Despite the novel’s acrobatically intricate narrative structure, it’s a pleasure to read Empire of Glass. Nearly each sentence is breathtakingly beautiful, and I have the impression that Kaitlin Solimine must have written the novel calligraphically, caressing each letter and image.”—Man Booker Finalist Josip Novakovich
In the mid-1990s, an American teenager, named Lao K in Chinese, stands on Coal Hill, a park in Beijing, a loop of rope in her hand. Will she assist her Chinese homestay mother, Li-Ming, who is dying of cancer, in ending her life, or will she choose another path? Twenty years later, Lao K receives a book written by Li-Ming called “Empire of Glass,” a narrative that chronicles the lives of Li-Ming and her husband, Wang, in pre and post-revolutionary China over the last half of the twentieth century. Lao K begins translating the story, which becomes the novel we are reading. But, as translator, how can Lao K separate fact from fiction, and what will her role be in the book’s final chapter?
A grand, experimental epic—Lao K’s story is told in footnotes that run throughout the book—that chronicles the seismic changes in China over the last half century through the lens of one family’s experiences, Empire of Glass is an investigation into the workings of human memory and the veracity of oral history that pushes the boundaries of language and form in stunning and unforgettable ways.
Kaitlin Solimine has been a Fulbright Fellow in China, and has received several scholarships, awards, and residencies for her writing, including the 2012 Dzanc Books/Disquiet International Literary Program award for an earlier draft of Empire of Glass, judged by Colson Whitehead. Her fiction has been published in Guernica, the Kartika Review, and numerous anthologies. Kaitlin is co-founder of HIPPO Reads, a network connecting academic insights and scholars to the wider public. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and daughter, where she is a SF Grotto Writing Fellow.