Summer Book Recommendations: Eugene Lim’s Dear Cyborgs

In Dear Cyborgs, Eugene Lim brings together a myriad of different forms and styles—the memoir, the critical essay, the pulpy superhero story, the magical realist fable—with the playful ease of a virtuoso.

Lim’s characters are Asian American artists, comic book fans, wage-workers, and, on their days off, black-ops superheroes. They meet together in restaurants and karaoke bars and talk about the things that weigh heavily on their minds: the value of protest, the value of art, and the precarious conditions of life and human connection in our time.

The emotional heart of the book is a friendship, started in small-town Ohio, between an unnamed Korean American narrator and his classmate, Vu. Both outsiders at school, they bond over comics. They part ways as teens when the narrator’s parents decide to move to Chicago, reunite after fifteen years, but then lose touch again, this time for good.

Vu’s influence on the narrator, even in his absence, is perhaps best shown in an anecdote at the start of the book. When the class is asked how many siblings they have, Vu says “nine”; the narrator laughs because he’s often at Vu’s house and has never seen a single one. He admits that for years afterwards he tells himself, “Somewhere in the world are Vu’s nine siblings, and I’ll never know them.”

This kind of mood—tinged at once by both melancholy and hope—is a powerful presence in Dear Cyborgs, all the more so because Lim’s prose is both rhythmic and spare. In Lim’s hands, complex ideas and emotions unfold with beautiful clarity.

Dear Cyborgs is for anyone who wonders what (super)heroism, art, beauty, friendship, and social protest mean now, and what they could mean in the future.

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