Longtime faculty member, Sam Chang’s newest novel, The Family Chao is a captivating, witty novel of three brothers, a festering family drama, and the disquieting reality of the American dream.
The residents of Haven, Wisconsin have dined on the Fine Chao restaurant’s delicious Americanized Chinese food for thirty-five years, happy to ignore any unsavory whispers about the family owners. But when brash, charismatic, and tyrannical patriarch Leo Chao is found dead—presumed murdered—his sons find they’ve drawn the exacting gaze of the entire town. The ensuing trial brings to light potential motives for all three brothers: Dagou, the restaurant’s reckless head chef; Ming, financially successful but personally tortured; and the youngest, gentle but lost college student James. As the spotlight on the brothers tightens—and the family dog meets an unexpected fate—Dagou, Ming, and James must reckon with the legacy of their father’s outsized appetites and their own future survival.
Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town.
In addition to The Family Chao, Chang has published four books: All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost (2010), Inheritance (2004), Hunger (1998), and the forthcoming The Family Chao (2022).
She is a Berlin Prize Fellow and also received the Wallace Stegner and Truman Capote Fellowships at Stanford, the Teaching-Writing Fellowship and Michener-Copernicus Fellowship at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and fellowships from Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her works have been translated into nine languages, and her stories have appeared in Ploughshares, The Atlantic, and Best American Short Stories.
Chang has taught at Harvard, Stanford, and Warren Wilson College, and in 2005 she became the fifth director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the first woman and Asian American to lead the eminent residency program.
Latest Published Work: The Family Chao
Essential Viewing: Reading and Interview with Elizabeth McCracken. Reading and discussion with the Oregon Humanities Center. Fellow Spotlight: Lan Samantha Chang provides a series of brief clips featuring Lan Samantha Chang discussing her latest novel.
Online Writings: “Writers, Protect Your Inner Life,” Lithub (based on a craft talk from Napa); “Letters to a Young Writer,” Narrative (free registration required)
Q&A: “Lan Samantha Chang Interviewed by Mia Funk,” for the Creative Process Project (2019)