Shui-yin Sharon Yam reviews Karen Cheung’s poignant memoir about life in Hong Kong, in the Hong Kong Review of Books:
“What is writing good for if we can’t write a way out of this darkest timeline?” (264), Karen Cheung asks in this hauntingly moving memoir of her life in Hong Kong over these last two decades. Since the passage of the National Security Law (NSL) in the summer of 2020, “Hong Kong is dead” has become a common refrain in international news. Amid constant crackdowns and arrests, Hong Kong no longer fits the image of a vibrant cosmopolitan city where foreign corporations, tourists, and expatriates can enjoy unbridled freedom. Beginning with a scathing and acute interrogation of this narrative, Cheung’s memoir cannot write Hong Kong out of its darkest timeline, but it has succeeded in lifting up the deeds and voices of Hongkongers who have always dared to imagine and work towards a better collective future for the city.
Part personal narrative and part reportage, The Impossible City covers the contentious period between 1997 to 2020, during which Hongkongers experienced the return of sovereignty to China, waves of student activism, the Umbrella Movement, the 2019 Anti-Extradition Bill protests, and the implementation of the NSL.