Fragile Creatures

Khin Myint

Fragile Creatures
Format
Paperback
Publisher
Black Inc.
Country
Australia
Published
4 June 2024
Pages
256
ISBN
9781760645144

Fragile Creatures

Khin Myint

Khin's sister Theda has a strange illness and a euthanasia drug locked in a box under her bed. Her doctor thinks her problem is purely physical, and so does she, but Khin is not so sure. He knows what they both went through growing up in Perth - it wasn't welcoming back then for a Burmese-Australian family.

With Theda's condition getting worse, Khin heads off to the United States. He needs to sort things out with his ex-partner. Once there, events take a very odd turn, and he finds himself in court.

This is a family story told with humour, wonderment and complete honesty. It's about care, truth and the hardest choices - and what happens when realities clash. How do we balance responsibility for others with what we owe ourselves? Fragile Creatures will sweep you up and leave you stunned at its power.

Review

In cinema, there is a film editing technique known as the Kuleshov effect, wherein the audience derives more meaning from the interaction between two shots than a single shot alone. Usually used when discussing the philosophy of montage, the term is rather aptly applied when looking at Fragile Creatures, the debut memoir by Perth-based writer Khin Mynt. In Fragile Creatures, Mynt braids together two seemingly distant storylines, creating an illuminating and refractory narrative that’s enmeshed in grief, and the unknowing that comes both before and after it.

The first thread follows Khin’s sister Theda and her mysterious illness, a condition that has left medical professionals baffled, asking whether her symptoms are physiological, psychological or both. When we enter the story, Theda, who has lived with this condition for some time, has just ordered a drug online to facilitate assisted suicide, though she insists the drug is only there as a last resort. This decision – along with the ambiguity of her diagnosis – has not only further fractured Khin’s already fractured family but also forced him to reckon with a childhood of extreme anti-Asian rhetoric in early-1990s suburban Perth. In doing so, he wonders, ultimately, whether such violence, coupled with his disfunctional childhood home, lead to Theda’s condition, as well as his own sense of deep-seeded uncertainty in life.

The second thread tracks Khin as he travels to the USA in search of his ex-fiancée Rachel, a woman who, also mysteriously, has split up with Khin over the phone only weeks after returning home to visit her family. Convinced that he might be able to gain some insight into what has happened, Khin goes to upstate New York, where he is confronted not only with a very different Rachel, but also the neo-liberal community that surrounds her. Here, the woman who purported to love him only months earlier mobilises the police and judicial systems against Khin. This raises grave uncertainty about his life, their relationship and even himself. More than this, the experience elicits in Khin deep conversations about performance politics, contemporary white feminism and the very nature of uncertainty itself, as Khin, a first-generation Burmese-Australian, is faced with the potential brutality of the American police state.

In lesser hands these story threads might exist in separate realms, unrelated, disparate or disconnected. Yet what tethers them together is the resoluteness of Khin’s voice, and his eloquence, humility and deep insight even in the face of such profound loss and fear. In this, Khin always draws us back to that which draws us forward: uncertainty, in its myriad forms.

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