The figurative language of C Pam Zhang

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of images from C Pam Zhang…

C Pam Zhang is an American writer who was born in Beijing China and who moved to the US at the age of four. She was the 2017 Truman Capote Fellow at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Her first novel, How Much of These Hills is Gold, appeared in 2020 and her second one, Land of Milk and Honey was listed in The New York Times 100 notable books for 2023.

While I rarely have much of an appetite for dystopian fiction, I was interested in Milk and Honey because I’d heard it was about food. Once I started reading, however, Zhang’s remarkable skill with figurative language drew me in. Here are my favourite examples:

  • I felt a euphoria such as the first European colonizers must have upon sighting new land.
  • Strawberries sat abandoned in the fields by seasons end, so ripe as to be barely solid, warm as heart’s blood.
  • The storeroom lay beneath a kitchen counter the precise pink of raw chicken. Like all expensive marble, it shone as if perpetually moist. In certain lights the counter appeared to pulse, like a lung or spleen.
  • The young woman who emerged was just as unnerving. Shaggy furs above, stick lets below, with the slight stagger of a bird blown off course and stranded thousands of miles from its destination.
  • Crudeness came sheathed in that genteel accent, the blade so fine it took a beat to feel its deep, sudden bite.
  • There was kindness planted beneath Aida’s score, soft loam under thorny cover of privilege.
  • Her freckles, when she smiled, formed continents.
  • The friend who saved up to invest in a fund and saw her money dissolve like sugar to the tongues of bankers who barely got a scolding from the SEC.
  • His mask was unreadable; he and she matched. I got no sense of Eun-Yung from these photos. Her face a puddle of milk. A cloud.
  • He described the harvest festival in such exaggerated terms that I touched my eyebrows to make sure they stayed in place.
  • Through the glass the moon was a ripe blood orange, each star skewering through.
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