King of the Armadillos: A Novel (Hardcover)
BEST BOOK OF SUMMER 2023: The Boston Globe, Deep South Magazine, Ms. Magazine, BookRiot; TOP 20 BOOKS OF 2023: BookBrowse
"Brilliant, absorbing, and powerfully moving." —Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild
“[A] gripping and tenderly executed drama." —The New York Times
A novel about family, love, and belonging, set against the backdrops of 1950s New York City and Louisiana, following one young man’s quest to survive an often misunderstood disease, and find love, music, and himself, in the process.
Victor Chin’s life is turned upside down at the tender age of 15. Diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, otherwise known as leprosy, he’s forced to leave the familiar confines of his father’s laundry business in the Bronx – the only home he’s known since emigrating from China with his older brother – to quarantine alongside patients from all over the country at a federal institution in Carville.
At first, Victor is scared not only of the disease, but of the confinement, and wants nothing more than to flee. Between treatments he dreams of escape and imagines his life as a fugitive. But soon he finds a new sense of freedom far from home – one without the pull of obligations to his family, the laundry business, or his mother back in China. Here, in the company of an unforgettable cast of characters, Victor finds refuge in music and experiences first love, jealousy, betrayal, and even tragedy. But with the promise of a life-changing cure on the horizon, Victor’s time at Carville is running out, and he has some difficult choices to make.
A page turning work of historical fiction, King of the Armadillos announces Wendy Chin-Tanner as an extraordinary new voice. Inspired by her father’s experience as a young patient at Carville, this tender novel is a captivating and lyrical exploration of the power of art.
About the Author
Wendy Chin-Tanner is the author of the poetry collections Turn and Anyone Will Tell You, editor of Embodied: An Intersectional Feminist Comics Poetry Anthology, and copublisher at A Wave Blue World, an independent publishing company for graphic novels. Born and raised in New York City, she lives in the Hudson Valley with her family. King of the Armadillos is her first novel.
"[A] lush drama about belonging." —Good Housekeeping
“King of the Armadillos offers a window into a world I didn’t know existed, with relatable characters and a nuanced plot…an engrossing, enjoyable read.” —Book Reporter
"You’ll find you are holding your breath at many points of this story." —Amy Loewy, Southern Bookseller Review
"Chin-Tanner’s exacting details render little-known medical history, deftly interwoven with the Chinese American experience, from paper sons to debilitating racism to bifurcated identity, to create a satisfying, polyphonic narrative about the intricate relationships within families by birth and circumstance..." —Booklist
“The historical perspective, empathy across cultures and centuries, vivid sensory insight and unremitting though forgiving honesty, all entwined with the book’s sheer riveting romance, family tragedy, humble epic sweep, and coming-of-age storytelling, is phenomenal… Wendy Chin-Tanner has reached high and deep among the shelves of family and community experience, and retrieved a masterwork.” —HiLobrow Magazine
"King of the Armadillos pulses with the miraculous: the power of art and heart to heal a body from the inside-out. Excavating a history that comes at an important moment in the present tense, the novel asks: how do we want to treat each other in the face of dangerous tensions around otherness and illness? Wendy Chin-Tanner answers with her art. A triumph." —Lidia Yuknavitch, bestselling and acclaimed author of The Book of Joan
“Engrossing, rich with emotion, and loaded with unforgettable characters, King of the Armadillos is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction.” —Alex Segura, bestselling and acclaimed author of Secret Identity
"A beautifully written story of a young man struggling with Hansen’s disease that captures both the tragedy and triumph of Carville." —Pam Fessler, author of Carville’s Cure: Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice
"This remarkable, brilliant book shows us the power of exile—and the dreams of freedom. Wendy Chin-Tanner pulls back the veil on a federal leprosarium in the 1950s, with a rich cast of characters who find refuge in art and love. Inspired by her own family history, it rings with authenticity and delight, finding great joy even in sorrow. An absolute treasure of a book." —Rene Denfeld, bestselling author of The Child Finder
"Wendy Chin-Tanner’s King of the Armadillos is both a moving coming-of-age story and a fiercely intelligent love letter to the author’s father. It is beautifully written and entertaining, but doesn’t shy away from questions of race, class, and belonging. A fantastic debut." —Cari Luna, author of The Revolution of Every Day