I AND YOU, stories by J. David Stevens, reviewed by David Amadio • Cleaver Magazine
Many of the characters in J. David Stevens’s four-story collection I and You are Chinese immigrants; the author himself is not. In the book’s introduction, Stevens confides that he might never have written about these characters if not for the relationship with his wife Janet, whose ancestors left China in 1899 and later settled in Richmond, Virginia. Reflecting on the source material for his multi-generational narratives, Stevens, whose Mexico is Missing and Other Stories won the 2006 Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction, admits an apprehension of the age: “[A] part of me still wonders if such stories cross a line, if appropriating segments of our shared history—or Janet’s history alone—is more rightly suited to intimate dialogue. I worry the art is too opportunistic.” This concern is real, and the author is right to acknowledge it. But his outsider’s rendition of the Chinese immigrant experience is respectfully nuanced, and while he does not share the same cultural background as his protagonists, he deeply values their stake in the larger human dilemma that fiction is taxed to solve.