Tim Moore at his blog wrote an incredibly cool profile of me and Dr. 2. Let me open up with his words:
Often, when Asian American literature is discussed, many times the conversation veers into the immigrant experience, or the complications of assimilation. These stories are important, yes, and they appeal to a wide variety of Asians, and Americans (and yes, Asian Americans). The success of writers like Amy Tan and Chang-Rae Lee show their universal appeal (which is not to say that there work are simply immigrant narratives – there’s a lot going on there: read Native Speaker). But the mistake would be to assume that the immigrant narrative, or assimilation narrative, is the sole narrative of the Asian American experience. There have been generations now, of Asian Americans on American soil, that have very different stories.
He could not have been more spot-on. When I grew up, almost every book I read about the Asian-American experience was about the immigrant one. So when I visited China, I was shocked to find incredibly creative and unique stories that had nothing to do with immigration. The imagination displayed in stories like the Monkey Kind, Dream of Red Mansions, Lu Xu, Mo Yan, and many others completely caught me off guard. Who were all these amazing writers and why had I never heard about them? As I’ve grown older, I understand part of it is because some of those early immigrant narratives were very well written and sold well, so it became sort of a niche market that was easy to market. Hence, it wasn’t that other narratives didn’t exist, but that those were the easiest to sell (for example, if one zombie book/movie does well, you’ll inevitably see hundreds of clones pop up).
I haven’t made a conscious effort not to write about the immigrant experience. I just write what I know and in this case, they are crazy stories with crazy people. While I wouldn’t call Dr. 2 crazy, he does have a pretty twisted past connected to the madness of WWII. His struggle for identity has almost nothing to do with the question of East vs. West, but rather, right vs. wrong, past vs. future, love vs. bitterness- the kind of problems that have plagued and puzzled me. The fact that the question of Asian vs. American rarely came up for me as a kid I think testifies to a fortunate childhood when it came to discrimination- I rarely felt it. Nice people were nice regardless of race and there existed just as many Asian bullies as non-Asian ones (well to be honest, for me at least, there were a lot more Asian bullies so I ended up doing their homework and in return, they left me alone, lol).
That’s why I loved this profile by Tim so much. It’s an incredible feeling when someone just gets your work on a deeper level and I was very honored by his kind words, not just about Dr. 2, but Watering Heaven as well. Big thanks to Tim who runs an awesome blog everyone should check out!
What I’m saying here is that Peter’s work is showing that the Asian American experience can be, well, cool. It can be fun. And most importantly, for me at least, it can be new. How exciting is that?