The Story Game: A Memoir
Available in the US and Canada, 21 May 2024
What was that game we used to play when we were children? We played it every night, before things went wrong between us.
It was a story game, wasn’t it?
In the humid dark of a eucalyptus-scented room, a woman named Hui lies on a mattress telling stories about herself to her listener, a little girl. She talks about her identity as the child of an immigrant, her feelings about being in a mixed-race marriage, her opinions on mental health. But as her stories progress, it becomes clear that a volatile secret lurks beneath their surface. There are events in Hui’s past that have great significance for the person she’s become, but that have gone missing from her memory. What is it, exactly, that is haunting Hui? Who is the little girl she talks to? And who, actually, is Hui herself?
As the conversation continues, what unfolds is a breathtaking, unexpected journey through layers of story toward truth and recovered identity; a memoir that reenacts, in tautly novelistic fashion, the process of healing that author Shze-Hui Tjoa moved through in order to recover memories lost to complex-PTSD and, eventually, reconstruct her sense of self. Stunning in its originality and intimacy, The Story Game is a piercing tribute to selfhood and sisterhood, a genre-shattering testament to the power of imagination, and a one-of-a-kind work of art.
Advance praise (with links to the authors' wonderful books)
"Reading this, I forgot about the real room I was in. I felt fully contained in the invented room separating The Story Game’s chapters. In The Room, Shze-Hui Tjoa makes make-believe serious the way children do—but she does it by playing with the memoir genre. As her storytelling progresses, she plunges, as the greatest writers have, to The Depths, revealing how the artistic process transforms her understanding of mind and body. Her ascent into The World is startling and powerful. After I read it, I felt a new world of creative possibilities opening. The Story Game is hyper-specific yet ethereal, serious and funny. It’s mesmerizing."
-- Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl
"The Story Game introduces a major debut work from a most astounding talent. Shze-Hui Tjoa’s memoir not only challenges genre, it upends and splits it wide open. In meditations on grief, displacement, mental health, and family, Tjoa will have you wondering how and why we remember, and what we can’t forget. The Story Game is hypnotic, wise, and thunderously innovative. I will teach this book, I will treasure it, and I will continue to learn from its astute and hopeful insights."
-- T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
"Both formally innovative and page-turning, Shze-Hui Tjoa transports us in The Story Game back and forth between two sisters in their childhood bedroom and the outside world. We eventually find ourselves siding with Nin's interruptions and questions: Where is Hui? Who is Hui? Tjoa's gaze upon the world is both tender and wry, and for those of us who are women or queer or people of color and have dreamed of a life lived solely in the mind, Tjoa shows us slowly, little by little, layer by layer, how disembodiment often comes at a great cost. With each attempt at truth-telling, we come to see just how easily we can omit what is essential to understanding ourselves and, thus, those most important to us."
-- Alysia Li Ying Sawchyn, author of A Fish Growing Lungs
“Shze-Hui Tjoa’s The Story Game is a patient excavation of selves: not the I of today, but the version before and the one before that, flawed and flawing, all the way back to childhood, reaching through history and memory to dust free so many cruel reflections. Ardently exquisite, Shze-Hui Tjoa tenders astonishment with blushing tenacity.”
-- Lily Hoàng, author of A Bestiary