This Jade World centers on a Thai American who has gone through a series of life changes. Ira Sukrungruang married young to an older poet. On their twelfth anniversary, he received a letter asking for a divorce, sending him into a despairing spiral. How would he define himself when he was suddenly without the person who shaped and helped mold him into the person he is?
After all these years, he asked himself what he wanted and found no answer. He did not even know what wanting meant. And so, in the year between his annual visits to Thailand to see his family, he gave in to urges, both physical and emotional; found comfort in the body, many bodies; fought off the impulse to disappear, to vanish; until he arrived at some modicum of understanding. During this time, he sought to obliterate the stereotype of the sexless Asian man and began to imagine a new life with new possibilities.
Through ancient temples and the lush greenery of Thailand, to the confines of a stranger’s bed and a devouring couch, This Jade World chronicles a year of mishap, exploration and experimentation, self-discovery, and eventually, healing. It questions the very nature of love and heartbreak, uncovering the vulnerability of being human.
About the Author
Ira Sukrungruang is the author of five books, including Buddha’s Dog and Other Meditations, Southside Buddhist, an American Book Award winner, and Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy. He is the president of Sweet: A Literary Confection (sweetlit.com) and is the Richard L. Thomas Professor of Creative Writing at Kenyon College.
"It was like watching an artist paint a picture. First come the random brushstrokes, then bits of color, then shape. Eventually the complete image emerges and what a thrill to have been there to see it evolve. While these essays circle around the topics of love and divorce, they're also about renewal, finding love again, and, of course, the joy of fatherhood."—Debbie Hagan, Brevity
“In This Jade World Sukrungruang offers us a prayer and a meditation on the beginnings and endings of love. The love of parents and their children. The love among men and women. The love between the skin we live in and the memories we house. In this rare and beautiful offering, we experience a man undone by love and his journey to salvage hope in the face of incredible loneliness and doubt, a search for salvation found first in a dream.”—Kao Kalia Yang, author of Somewhere in the Unknown World and The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir
“It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that when seemingly happy couples break up we all wonder what the hell happened. In Ira Sukrungruang’s affecting and vulnerable memoir, This Jade World, he narrates the dissolution of one marriage and the burgeoning of another as a double love story, laced with wonder, grief, downward spirals, and mature reinventions. Set in both Thailand and the U.S., examined against an epic web of family domestic strife and rearrangement, this gorgeously written book illuminates the necessity and complexity of intimate joy.”—Barrie Jean Borich, author of Body Geographic and Apocalypse, Darling
“This Jade World is compulsively readable—its short chapters are polished stones, each delightful by itself while leading us on to another, another, until we’ve walked the road through the author’s divorce and into his new life and love. Mostly set during his yearly visits to his family, Sukrungruang offers a keenly observed Thailand—the monks slipping their cellphones into their robes, the tattoo artist praying before pushing his needle into the author’s back. And throughout we have the deepest pleasure—that of language charged with imagery, leavened with humor, and pierced with insight.”—Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs