The Face: Strangers on a Pier

The Face, by Tash Aw - 9781632060457.jpg
The Face, by Tash Aw - 9781632060457.jpg

The Face: Strangers on a Pier


by Tash Aw

Finalist for the Los Angeles Times' Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose

The Face Series

“Tash Aw’s The Face, so wise and so well done, made me wish it were much longer than it is.”

—Chimamanda Adichie, The Guardian's Best Books of 2016

From the the award-winning author of Five Star Billionaire and The Harmony Silk Factory comes a whirlwind personal history of modern Asia, as told through his Malaysian and Chinese heritage.

Book Details

Paperback List Price: $9.99 • ISBN: 9781632060457 • Publication: 3/1/16 • 4-1/2" x 6” • 80 pages • Memoir / Personal Essay / Southeast Asia • Territory: World • eBook ISBN: 9781632060594

Buy from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo | iTunes

Buy from Restless
Buy from Restless

About the Book

In The Face: Strangers on a Pier, acclaimed author Tash Aw explores the panoramic cultural vitality of modern Asia through his own complicated family story of migration and adaptation, which is reflected in his own face. From a taxi ride in present-day Bangkok, to eating Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1980s Kuala Lumpur, to his grandfathers’ treacherous boat journeys to Malaysia from mainland China in the 1920s, Aw weaves together stories of insiders and outsiders, images from rural villages to megacity night clubs, and voices in a dizzying variety of languages, dialects, and slangs, to create an intricate and astoundingly vivid portrait of a place caught between the fast-approaching future and a past that won’t let go.


About The Face Series

Alternately philosophical, funny, personal, political, and poetic, the short memoirs in The Face series offer unique perspectives from some of our favorite writers. Our inspiration for the series comes from a passage by Jorge Luis Borges:

“As the years go by, [the writer] peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.”

Find out more at



"Tash Aw's The Face, so wise and so well done, made me wish it were much longer than it is."

—Chimamanda Adichie, The Guardian's Best Books of 2016

"Aw digs deep into the meaning of this move, the meaning of Chineseness in Malaysia, the meaning of inherited immigrant markings, and the meaning of leaving the immigrant perspective behind. He charts what it looks like to reprise history, to move for greater opportunity and more education, leaving behind those with less money and shedding the ancestral memory and choreography of poverty. “

Public Books

“So The Face, as with the best of literary nonfiction, incorporates elements of memoir and essay, conjecture and meditation, allowing the reader to accompany each author as he or she creates a text that is utterly unique and universally affecting. Each book, on its own, is quirky, funny, sad, and profound; taken together, they have much to tell us about the culture at large, the ties that bind, and the truth — painful, hopeful, reassuring, provocative — of our place on the continuum as daughters, sons, and citizens. It’s a brilliant idea: give a bunch of good writers a prompt that is at once personal and political, and you’re bound to send readers running to the mirror, turning this way and that in an effort to reckon with who they are and who they want to be.”

Los Angeles Review of Books

“Aw always writes well, but this small volume is particularly lyrical. The extended essay format suits him: long enough for some structure—the chronology is not linear, and he bounces from story to social commentary to introspection—and to explore issues in depth, while short enough for immediacy. He covers a tremendous amount of ground.… Strangers on a Pier is a wealth of pithy observation.… This is a well-rounded, complete short work that should resonate particularly well with Asians who share Aw’s multi-lingual, multi-cultural upbringing—and there are lots of them. It would be an excellent text for sparking discussion in whatever passes for social studies in Asian secondary schools.”

Asian Review of Books

“What seems most compelling to Aw is the process of forgetting and editing that can occur in diasporic movements...Aw is additionally invested in rooting out what is forgotten, what one wants to erase and to figure out why certain bonds become slack or covered over. In this sense, Aw makes clear that his creative inspirations as a writer and editor appear in seeing how relationships are determined only to be later made unstable by a contextual force or power... His approach to the work was more or less a narratively driven memoir with a kind of philosophical flair.”

Asian American Literature Fans

“Mr. Aw is a patient writer, and an elegant one. His supple yet unshowy prose can resemble Kazuo Ishiguro's.… He's a writer to watch."

—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“What a storyteller Tash Aw is.”

—Doris Lessing

“This young writer has come to us fully formed, and with the promise of a long and significant career.”

—Chang-rae Lee

Read an excerpt on The New Yorker website


About the Author

© Stacy Liu

© Stacy Liu

Born in Taipei to Malaysian parents, Tash Aw grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to Britain to attend university. He is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009), and Five Star Billionaire (2013), which have won the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and twice been longlisted for the Man Booker prize; they have also been translated into twenty-three languages. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space and the landmark Granta 100, amongst others.


Read More