Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen


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“A captivating collection of stories whose strength is in their subtlety. Lyrical and prescient, these stories are full of lovingly-rendered characters whose existences are never overshadowed by themes or ideas.

Chen weaves aspects of society so finely into the folds of truly human characters that, if you so desired, the stories may never feel too much like social commentary.

This collection touches on everything from quiet compliance to abject censorship to globalization, each story a touchstone for something bigger, more elusive. Where the world is more connected than it has been, maybe ever, Chen shows us that the reality of living in the “land of big numbers” is as obscured as those touchstones allow.”


A Most Anticipated Title of 2021 from Esquire · Elle · O Magazine · Newsweek · Buzzfeed · Refinery29 and more!

“Gripping and illuminating . . . At the heart of Te-Ping Chen’s remarkable debut lies a question all too relevant in 21st Century America: What is freedom?” —Jennifer Egan

“Immensely rewarding, from the first sentence to the last . . . An exceptional collection.” —Charles Yu

A “stirring and brilliant” debut story collection, offering vivid portrayals of the men and women of modern China and its diaspora, “both love letter and sharp social criticism,” from a phenomenal new literary talent bringing great “insight from her years as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal” (Elle).

Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present.

Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.

With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.

Land of Big Numbers: Stories by Te-Ping Chen