The Moons documents an intimate affair between two women living on opposite sides of Earth, a relationship confined mostly to a messaging app. The wax and wane of this seemingly doomed long-distance entanglement gets tethered with the raw details of the narrator's day-to-day—most of the text, in fact, is lifted straight from her private journals, which permit voyeuristic access into her secret inner circle. Fragments of autofiction in varied formats are woven in to further explore themes of queerness, desire, identity, reality versus virtuality, the private versus public self, immigration, displacement, time, family, history, and political oppression. Emerging from this patchwork of confessions is a courageous disclosure of inevitable heartbreak—the narrator attempts to reconcile her sexuality and global modernity with her traditional Chinese identity, and to adapt her collective ancestral memory and biorhythmic mood swings to the gravity of the present day.
A log of food, sex, and proximities, Yuxin Zhao's The Moons is a body unflinching, regurgitated, deconstructed, and shapeshifted in ongoing encounter with defamiliarization. It is a durational project of profound tenderness and yearning. Be eaten by the poet.
The Moons wants to mess with our assumptions about the nature and shape of time, of distance, of literary forms, and above all, the physics of desire and longing. In this painstaking documentation of daily living, dreams are currency for exchanging intimacies, and snacks become timestamps for measuring absence, during which events seem to nearly happen or only half-happen. There is a brave sincerity in writing all the minutiae, leaving nothing out, littering the narrative with crumbs and candy wrappers which come to stand in for small pleasures or disappointments, both sad and exacting. This book will leave you very, very hungry, yet strangely filled to the brim with delicate wisdom.
Multilingual and multicultural, Yuxin Zhao applies paradigms from the fine arts, from science, math, and semiotics, to her writing practice. Manifest in an exhaustive, even obsessive, particularity of detail and observation, is a surreal understanding of the underlying arbitrariness of such paradigms, even as they remain necessary to the possibility of human discourse. A quotidian strangeness and deadpan humor suffuses the circadian spaces of eating, working, travelling, and corresponding until we, too, feel the dynamics of history, family, gender, sexuality, and ideology begin to transmute into spiraling, recursive fractals of experience and endurance. There can be no all-defining foundation for identity. The relationality of this outlook struggles to create an intimacy or space of acknowledgement even as Zhao's Oulipo-like constraints radiate a lunar chill. Both revelatory and concealing, The Moons is a tidal hybrid of memoir, documentation, and characterization, a parafiction that inhabits the uncanny truths we habitually repress, ignore, discount, or talk over, but at heart remind us that "chest is the best storage place" for a mortality like ours.
—Jon Wagner, Emeritus Professor of Critical Studies and Writing, California Institute of the Arts
1. zhao impales the candied fruits of romantic and filial love with a sharp bamboo skewer, which we grasp with desperate hands.
2. reading this book will allow you to understand the taste of toilet paper, cookies that corrode one’s teeth, and memory games played across screens and generations.
3. the moons is a cultivation of love conducted across a digital terrain, then harvested in accordance with lunar sequences.
4. a scientific hypothesis that declares our life’s arithmetic might end cinematically, despite our most careful calculations.
—Daisuke Shen, author of Vague Predictions & Prophecies