Self-Portrait with Ghost: Short Stories

Stories that remind us that possible explanations in our universe are as varied as the beings who populate it

Written during the turbulent years of the Trump administration and the first year of the pandemic, these stories explore intimacy and isolation, coming-of-age and coming to terms with the repercussions of past mistakes, fraying relationships and surprising moments of connection. Moving between San Francisco and China, and from unsparing realism to genre-bending delight, Self-Portrait with Ghost considers what it means to live in an age of heightened self-consciousness, seemingly endless access to knowledge, and little actual power.

(from Goodreads)

More about this collection

Author Meng Jin’s official website

Q&A with Meng Jin courtesy of PorchLight books – a good overview of the major themes and stories in this collection and the inspiration behind them

A story from this collection – free to read online, courtesy of LitHub


“I saw Gugu in the street. She was sitting on the bench outside the public library.

What are you doing here? I said. She had been dead for sixteen years. Even when she was alive, she had never crossed the ocean to see me, though not out of malice or disregard. I know she’d meant more to me than I had to her. She’d meant more to me because for so long, she had pursued death with a near religious fervor. She was the first person of that type I’d known.

She looked at me sullenly. I might have expected death to change her, to fill her, perhaps, with a light so abundant it could be shared. But she looked just as she had the last time I’d seen her, twenty-odd years ago in Jinhua: chubby-cheeked and slow-moving, as if in an aquarium, her hair cropped close like a boy’s. She was wearing slippers and a long blue robe, like she was still afraid to leave the house.

I guess I wanted to see what you were reading, she said. Nowadays, I mean, now that you’re a writer.”

– Meng Jin, Self-Portrait With Ghost


This site is a labor of love so many entries could benefit from more quotes, links to interesting background material, author interviews, etc. If you have material for the collection on this page, please get in touch.

Unless otherwise noted, the blurb is adapted from Goodreads.
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