Asian Author, Audiobook, Books, Fantasy, Fiction, Folklore, Queer

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho blends Malaysian folklore with the contemporary queer struggle with homophobia in Asian communities

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars (3.25 rounded down to a 3)

Black Water Sister is a paranormal fantasy novel by Zen Cho. The eBook version is 384 pages. I listened to the Recorded Books produced audiobook, which clocks in at eleven and a half hours and is narrated by Catherine Ho.

We follow a closeted lesbian named Jessamyn Teoh who has to move back to Malaysia with her parents after she graduates from Harvard with no job and no prospects. Jessa starts hearing a voice and learns that she comes from a family of mediums and she’s actually hearing her dead estranged maternal grandmother Ah Ma. Ah Ma was a spirit medium for a deity called the Black Water Sister while she was alive, and has unfinished business in the land of the living with a gang boss who offended her god. And she wants Jess to help her deal with the issue.

It was a compelling read, but lost points for me on how heavily it leans on violence against women. Also, practically every character (including ghosts) communicates with Jess in broken English. She isn’t fluent in anything but English, so there is definitely a communication barrier there, but it got a little bit annoying for me.

Tropes in this book include: lesbian heroine, Malaysian heroine, sapphic Indian love interest

CW: death, physical abuse (domestic and gang violence), SA (incident of near-rape, reference to past rape), casual homophobia, misogyny, racism, cancer and remission (mentioned)

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