An anti-coming-of-age story, set between the U.S. and China, that examines themes of escapism and toxic masculinity.
In the years following his graduation from college, Cole Chen has been back and forth between the U.S. and China, struggling to navigate his transition into adulthood. Estranged from his parents, he returns to Hunan province to work for his friends, while also attempting to write a memoir based on his experiences. During the course of this year abroad, he meets a young woman named Harmony under initially dubious circumstances, whom he dates briefly, before returning to live with his brother in California, where he is forced to confront a dark reality from his past. With perspectives shifting between Cole's rose-colored accounts of his time in Hunan and his friends and family members' less flattering portrayals of him in the States, the novel attempts to inspect the extent to which one's surroundings (both geographical and cultural) shape conceptions of self-identity, while also raising a more complicated discussion about the ways in which men are taught to view the opposite sex.
The #MeToo movement has changed the way we tell stories, and more importantly, the way we listen. This story is an attempt to reflect honestly on the problems of misogyny and toxic masculinity endemic to our society. Too often, representations of sexual abuse at the hands of male authors tend toward the exploitative (gratuitous depictions of violence, the use of female trauma as a redemptive tool, the co-opting of victims' stories, etc.), but Unwelcomeactively (and repeatedly) challenges the credibility of its protagonist, to the point that, in the end, his version of events is denied primacy.
Unwelcome is reminiscent of Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You (a fraught relationship abroad) and Teju Cole's Open City (an introspective/aborted personal reckoning).