Book Notes: Days of Distraction

Days of Distraction by Alexandra Chang
Read Apr 30, 2021 - May 15, 2021

Days of Distraction is a sweet, melancholy novel about the relationship between a young Chinese-American woman and her white American boyfriend. It is written in a first-person, diaristic style that feels more memoir than novel.

Chang uses a style that is plain and readable, but at times felt a little too detached, quiet in a way that made the story less heartbreaking than it could have been. The protagonist feels very young, unscarred in a way that leaves plenty of space of hope for a better future, which also helps blunt the sting of the disappointments she goes through.

At the same time, she describes much that feels familiar: her office life in a San Francisco technology publication, her experiences of casual racism, the mix of joy and terror of new pet ownership, and, of course, the complexities of an intimate relationship with someone from a slightly different culture from yours.

Book Highlights

And it’s not like they hate their jobs. They just have realistic, somewhat cynical outlooks on the whole thing.

Nobody loves Facebook like that. It’s more of a shameful and sickening addiction, like eating scoops of jam directly from the jar.

How augmented is his reality from mine is the question I would like answered.

It feels like we are doing a sort of dance, the steps for which I cannot and do not want to master, so I end it by retreating to the conversations I know how to have, and am left with a nagging sense of having failed at something.

“Okay. But you’re equating mice and people.” “Well, that is the basis of modern science. That mice are model humans.”

Maybe it is better to be exceptional in this way than to be something else, something less familiar.

Him doing something more terrible than this, him cheating on me or worse, so my departure can be justified and understandable to everyone outside of us.

The dog and the cat sleep in the same position, on their backs and feet up, as though in peaceful surrender. They know something I don’t. I could watch them forever.

That was not this. This doesn’t mean anything. She didn’t mean anything by it. You didn’t mean it. This doesn’t have to mean something. This doesn’t mean anything, if you don’t look at it that way. What does this mean, then? This means nothing. What do they mean, then? What they mean is that you mean nothing.

For a moment, I feel sad for them, these grown men holding on to their teenage years, but then I feel sad for myself, because I don’t have anything that I am as excited about as they are about their band and its ear-piercing music.

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