WIN TODAY'S FEATURED BOOK: Mr. Ding's Chicken Feet: On a Slow Boat from Shanghai to Texas by Gillian Kendall
After accepting a job teaching English on a small engineering vessel traveling from Shanghai to Texas, Gillian Kendall embarks on a strange journey with no ports of call but exotic emotional landscapes. She is the only female aboard, surrounded by Chinese men. The cosmopolitan graduate student suddenly has to adjust to an alien world, thick with cigarette smoke, unusual sea creatures, and male sexuality. Kendall invites readers to travel with her across cultural divides as deep and mysterious as the Pacific while she explores her own culture, orientation, and heart.
Too shy to sit next to anyone, I sidled to the end of the nearest table, where Zhao, the chief engineer, and a few others were chewing heartily. A bowl of chicken feet graced the middle of the table, braced by several large bottles of beer and some jars of evil-looking pickles. I pointed to the central dish, saying "I would like to taste this."
Several plates and chopsticks were thrust in my face, the owners cheerfully offering me their uneaten food.
"That's okay." I bent over the communal bowl. The greasy steam made me gag. A dozen or so gray-yellow claws poked up at me. Each foot had four long, skinny toes, and each toe had a tiny, oval nail on the end. The joints, where the skin wrinkled, looked like human knuckles. I picked up the smallest foot, but it looked like the hand of a sick old lady. Shuddering, I dropped it.
–from Mr. Ding's Chicken Feet
Gillian Kendall is a writer who divides her time between Australia and the USA. She is the editor of SOMETHING TO DECLARE: GOOD LESBIAN TRAVEL WRITING, and author of MR. DING'S CHICKEN FEET, a New York TIMES notable book of the year. Her website is www.gilliankendall.net