Days of Distraction

Days of Distraction

By Alexandra Chang
320 pages
February 2021


“Startlingly original and deeply moving.... Chang here establishes herself as one of the most important of the new generation of American writers.”   — George Saunders

A wry, tender portrait of a young woman—finally free to decide her own path, but unsure if she knows herself well enough to choose wisely—from a captivating new literary voice

The plan is to leave. As for how, when, to where, and even why—she doesn’t know yet. So begins a journey for the twenty-four-year-old narrator of Days of Distraction. As a staff writer at a prestigious tech publication, she reports on the achievements of smug Silicon Valley billionaires and start-up bros while her own request for a raise gets bumped from manager to manager. And when her longtime boyfriend, J, decides to move to a quiet upstate New York town for grad school, she sees an excuse to cut and run.

Moving is su

pposed to be a grand gesture of her commitment to J and a way to reshape her sense of self. But in the process, she finds herself facing misgivings about her role in an interracial relationship. Captivated by the stories of her ancestors and other Asian Americans in history, she must confront a question at the core of her identity: What does it mean to exist in a society that does not notice or understand you?

Equal parts tender and humorous, and told in spare but powerful prose, Days of Distraction is an offbeat coming-of-adulthood tale, a touching family story, and a razor-sharp appraisal of our times.

“A strikingly quiet, tender book that simultaneously traces the many big questions — in Chang’s words, the 'precarity of young adulthood, dynamics of being in an interracial relationship,' the insidious forces of capitalism, racism and sexism — shadowing the protagonist’s struggle to find her place in the world…. Remarkable.” -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Days of Distraction is a novel that puts political issues in individual terms. In a cultural moment of forced self-analysis and rising anti-Asian racism, it’s not just resonant but also timely." -- The Atlantic

“Quietly funny and thunderingly wise…. What matters here is Chang’s honest, unconventional storytelling…. [A] winning novel from a writer to watch." -- New York Times Book Review

Days of Distraction masterfully complicates the many harmful ways in which societal rage is placated daily.... It’s no easy feat to present these issues using bountiful evidence within an expansive work of fiction. Chang does this expertly. Her debut is a reminder that the novel can show and tell, convey story and social message, and dare the reader to participate in their own upheaval.” -- Chicago Review of Books