Self-Portrait with Ghost: Short Stories

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

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