A few fictional Asians

Yesterday, Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda became available for purchase. Andrew is another writer and blog-friend I met through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and in fact his book is being published via AmazonEncore as a result of his participation in that contest.

Now, I didn’t subject Andrew to an interview like I did Todd, but the Q&A on Crossing‘s Amazon page is what got me interested in his book. I highly recommend checking that out.

Verdict? Crossing took me by surprise. I wanted to read it because of my Chinese heritage, and because of how the Virginia Tech incident affected me, but somehow I wasn’t expecting the book’s emotional depth. Furthermore, the mystery element made it a very compelling read, and certain passages struck me with their literary beauty. Like any book, Crossing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I certainly enjoyed it.

Of course, I had to laugh when Andrew mentioned (in the Q&A) how most immigrant books feature “clichéd scenes of family meals, flowery mother-daughter relationships, and cathartic returns to the motherland.” Because that’s sort of the book The Good Daughters was. (TGD = my first ever completed novel, currently shelved but slated to be rewritten.) Well, okay, TGD’s mother-daughter relationship wasn’t flowery, and no one went back to the motherland, but it did feature more “typical” or expected elements. (Hence why it needs to be rewritten.)

So in addition to enjoying Crossing as a story, I also appreciated how Andrew stepped away from a lot of the stereotypes. (But not all of them. And hey, some exist for a reason.) Andrew used Chinese culture to enhance Xing’s character, not to define him. Xing could have been a loner for any reason; he just happened to be Chinese.

Similarly, actress-writer-director Fay Ann Lee created Falling for Grace, a Chinese-American rom-com. Yes, that’s right: a Chinese-American romantic comedy. Hollywood liked the story but wanted Lee to change the main character to a white or Hispanic woman. Lee refused and put the movie out independently. It’s not 100% polished like the slick things we usually see on-screen, but it’s got a lot of raw truth in it, particularly in the scenes about Grace and her family. In fact, my favorite part (sorry, this is a teeny bit of a spoiler) is when Grace gives her brother some money for culinary school:

Ming: I’ll pay you back, I promise!
Grace: Just cook for me for the rest of my life.
Ming: … I’d rather pay you back.

Did that have to take place between Asian siblings? Of course not. But throughout the movie, their heritage is reflected in their interactions with each other and with their parents, and it makes those relationships feel rich, and real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love (love LOVE) Amy Tan, and a lot of the more “typical” Asian American fiction that’s out there. (LOVE.) But I think it’s great that some writers and artists are exploring their heritage in other ways. We need to represent the whole spectrum of experiences, you know?

Andrew Xia Fukuda and Fay Ann Lee are doing that, and when I rewrite The Good Daughters, I plan to as well.

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10 Comments

  1. Loved this post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and I’m going to google both of the novel/movie mentioned now!! :)
    .-= • Recent post by Kimberly Franklin: The Carrie Diaries =-.

  2. Les

    I’ve got decently boring and kind of unknown heritage to be honest… I wouldn’t even know about the complexities you’re talking about :(
    .-= • Recent post by Les: Not quite home made =-.

  3. I agree with your point, which I believe is that there is a fine line between avoiding stereotypes while including the characteristics that define the group. Also, sometimes a situation you’ve seen before is there because the writer is lazy. Other times, it’s essential to the story. Like french fries. I’ve had ’em a million times, but good fries are good fries no matter what.
    .-= • Recent post by Sonja: Hello, private school! Buh-bye, money! =-.

  4. Kimberly-
    I hope you enjoy them!

    Les-
    Well, you’re a Canadian transplant to America!

    Everyone has unique complexities worth exploring. In some cases that’s heritage; in many cases it’s not. :)

    Sonja-
    That is indeed my point. Or at least one of them.

    And oh man, haha, I LOVE that French fry analogy!

  5. Jon

    Don’t worry about the Good Daughters–all writers have tons of manuscripts that are just that–manuscripts. But as Bulgakov said “manuscripts don’t burn,” so you’re good. You can always pick it up again and it sounds like you will, so best of luck.
    .-= • Recent post by Jon: Lessons Learned: Hollywood Style =-.

  6. Haha, yeah. I’m not too worried about it. Too busy worrying about the more immediate mss (i.e., 20SW). :P

  7. This is a great post…I have always been interested in the “hypenated” cultures within our country. “Falling for Grace,” sounds great!
    The Good Daughters by Kristan Hoffman…sounds like a publishable book to me. :)
    .-= • Recent post by Sarah: I’m Just Saying… =-.

  8. Oh, someday it will be. ;)

  9. Quite impressive that she said “no” to Hollywood. It’s hard to stick to our convictions when dollar bills are flashed –not that I’ve been challenged that way (yet).

  10. I know, right?!

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