Peter is a Chinese-Canadian boy with a secret: he is truly a girl. He calls his penis the thing. He tells his sisters, “I want to be pretty like you.” All three girls sense their brother’s secret, but it is the eldest Helen who brings reality to it. “You can be handsome, like Father or Bruce Lee.” The father is overjoyed to finally have a son and does all he can to make him into a true male. He complains that Peter cries more than his sisters. Mother is not much of a presence in the household, so dominated by her husband she is. When Peter offers to help with supper clean up father stops him, “It’s women’s work.”
When he moves to Montreal as a young adult he is more able to explore who he is. When he meets some young friends he surmises, “What right had they to be born into a world where they were taught to look endlessly into themselves…To ask themselves, and not be told, whether they were boys or girls?”
Fu has written an excellent and challenging first novel. It will be interesting to see where she goes from here.