After being mesmerized by Fukuda’s novel Crossing, I had a few questions that I longed to ask the author. Fortunately, Andrew had the time to answer them which you can read below:
#1. I could feel the plight of Xing so clearly. Is this a common experience for the Asian students that you know?
At the risk of over generalizing, there are two “types” of Asians (or Chinese) in America: the recent immigrant and the second generation Asian American. Sometimes the acronyms FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) and ABC (American Born Chinese) are used to distinguish between the two. The immigrant Asian experience can be vastly different from the Asian American experience. Recent immigrants have a lot more obstacles to overcome and, because of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings, often make easy targets, especially during school years when ostracization is more overtly racist. Xing comes solidly from the immigrant Asian camp, and his character is based on the many Asian teens I worked with in Chinatown. Many of the Chinatown teens were shielded by the cloistered sanctuary that Chinatown afforded them. But for those who venture out, by choice or by necessity (usually the latter), the sense of isolation and marginalization could be acute.
#2. In my town, outside of Chicago, the Asian students are looked up to. They are the ones who are the best musicians, the best gymnasts, and certainly the best students. They are always the ones with the best grade point average at our High School. I don’t think the White kids can hope to accomplish what most of the Asian ones do. How would you respond to my experience?
I’m always a little leery when it comes to classifying all Asians under the “Model Minority” umbrella. Although such a classification is on the surface very complimentary, a positive classification can be a short and swift step to a negative stereotype. As Professor Frank Wu has commented, “every trait that is praised today can be condemned tomorrow: to be smart is to be an ostracized geek, to be hard-working is to be unfair competition, to be polite is to know one’s place.”
That said, there is no doubt that Asian Americans do tend to achieve success in many different spheres. This is especially true for Asian Americans living in the suburbs just outside a major city like New York and Chicago where communities often have a relatively large and well-entrenched Asian American population. There is safety (and acceptance) in numbers, and for second-generation Asian American teens attending often top-notch school with parents highly involved in their academic success, accolades and recognition are not uncommon. Contrast this with Xing’s life: he is an immigrant teen with a thick accent from a highly dysfunctional home, living in an all-white community where the only visible Asians work at the food court and massage parlors. Sad to say, his hardships are not atypical for many immigrant teens living under similar circumstances.
#3. I admire how you intertwined emotional issues with action/plot in your novel. It seems that there is an equal emphasis on both; did you set out to do this on purpose? Was it more important to you to establish an emotional connection or a heart racing thrill, or were they equal in your mind?
I always intended Crossing to be a novel that hit the reader at a deeply emotional level. To me, that meant creating a really vivid protagonist. I wanted Xing the character to be as fully-fleshed out as possible, for him to really lift off the pages, come alive, and be real to the reader. Not necessarily likable or formulaically heroic, but somebody so tangible that the reader could see his pores, so to speak.
That said, the thriller element of the novel was very important. For two reasons. First, it’s difficult to get to know a character in stasis – you need to see them in conflict, in moments of uncertainty, in naked fear, dealing with irrational thoughts, before you really get a feel for them. Second, I’m as much a sucker for a fast-paced/adrenaline-filled thrillers as the next person. It’s the genre that most effectively has me so effortlessly turning the pages to the end. Hopefully, Crossing has succeeded with both the emotional- and the thriller-components by weaving them together seamlessly in a way that snags the reader in and delivers an emotionally-bold and unforgettable ending.
Thank you, Andrew, for writing such a compelling novel which causes us to look at stereotypes, to look at issues which teens face, and for taking us on a roller coaster ride of suspense at the same time. I found your work profoundly moving, as I’m sure those who read it will agree.
Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Crossing.