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Unwieldy Creatures by Addie Tsai

A biracial, queer, gender-swapped retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a tale of doom, ambition, loss, revenge, and murder.

 

Unwieldy Creatures, a biracial, queer, gender-swapped retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, follows the story of three beings who all navigate life from the margins: Plum, a queer biracial Chinese intern at one of the world’s top embryology labs, who runs away from home to openly be with her girlfriend only to be left on her own; Dr. Frank, a queer biracial Indonesian scientist who compromises everything she claims to love in the name of science and ambition when she sets out to procreate without sperm or egg; and Dr. Frank’s nonbinary creation, who, painstakingly brought into the world, is abandoned due to complications at birth that result from a cruel twist of revenge. Plum struggles to determine the limits of her own ambition when Dr. Frank offers her a chance to assist with her next project. How far will Plum go in the name of scientific advancement and what is she willing to risk?

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Cover Art by Isip Xin

Praises for Unwieldy Creatures

“While Tsai nods to the original epistolary format via oral history, the resulting Unwieldy Creatures is in itself a true original and a perfect example of a flip from a historical classic to a contemporary one.”

BuzzFeed News, Wendy J. Fox

“When I learned that it’s a queer, biracial retelling of Frankenstein…I couldn’t hit that preorder button fast enough. Two queer scientists and the nonbinary creation one of them makes? Sign me up.”

BookRiot

“小 籠 包/xiǎolóngbāo/soup dumplings, congee/粥/zhōu, guàbāo/割包/pork belly bun, please, readers, pay close attention to food in Addie Tsai’s Unwieldy Creatures, and how it exists simultaneously in Mandarin and English, which makes food not only sustenance, but a communicative doorway between worlds and people. Even the protagonist, Plum, who wonders if ‘communication with another is the only thing we have to keep us from the darker depths’ serves as a communicative doorway—Unwieldy Creatures, as a whole, keeps us from darker depths.”

Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat

“Tsai takes us on a wild ride in which gender, race, class and sexual identity collide on a grand scale. Like the nameless creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we are forced to ask, ‘Who am I?'”

Kathleen Alcalá, author of Spirits of the Ordinary 

Unwieldy Creatures, unrelenting in its inventiveness and its ambition, is easily the most innovative book I’ve read in years. Addie Tsai manages to hold on to the useful parts of tradition while creating a wholly original revision of Frankenstein. I’m hooked.”

Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir

“In this thought-provoking and structurally innovative queer biracial gender-swapped reimagining of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Addie Tsai examines what it means to be seen as a monster in an already monstrous world. From Dr. Frank’s innovations in embryology to her intern Plum’s ambitions, these two characters must relive their pasts to understand their role in Dr. Frank’s creations—and to realize the ways our greatest human triumphs are often born from our darkest human failings.”

Kelly Ann Jacobson, author of Tink and Wendy

“Tonally exquisite, culturally crucial, and a master class in the art of retelling, Addie Tsai’s Unwieldy Creatures will enrapture any reader who encounters it. Fans of Frankenstein will appreciate the way Tsai’s deep engagement with the original text underscores Shelley’s eternal relevance. But all will be enamored with Tsai’s dreamy, eerily relevant re-envisioning. The protagonists of Unwieldy Creatures may come to grips with the limitations of their ambitions, but I assure you, there is no limit to what Tsai achieves in these pages. In their soulful devotion to selfhood, the body, and the depths we’ll sound in pursuit of connection, Tsai spins an empathic spell that embraces the darkness while imbuing it with light.”

Piper J. Daniels, author of Ladies Lazarus: Essays

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