Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Andrew Fukuda
Question: Crossing is the story of Xing Xu, a Chinese teenager growing up in a small town in upstate New York. Xing is a loner who doesn’t fit in at school and when a rash of disappearances rattle the town, suspicion is immediately cast in his direction. Where did you get the inspiration for this book?
Andrew Fukuda: I worked for a few years with immigrant teens in Manhattan's Chinatown. What really struck me was how acutely they felt isolated from society at large. Shoved out of the way, really. And they shared a real disenchantment with America. One Sunday, a group of us--we were traveling in upstate New York--decided to attend church. It turned out to be an all-white church and I still remember the cold looks of suspicion and icy stares cast our way throughout the service. Just because we were Chinese, just because we looked different. Those cold stares haunted me for a long time afterward. It got me thinking: what if an immigrant teen had to grow up all alone in this kind of community? And what if something terribly, mysteriously awful started to happen in that community?
The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre at the hands of Seung-Hui Cho added urgency to my writing. I feel that Asian American males have often been dealt an unfair hand by the media, and I was afraid of a backlash, afraid that we might get typecast as raging, hate-filled, gun-toting campus killers. For weeks after, I attacked the manuscript with renewed fervor and purpose, determined to add more dimensionality to Xing's character. Realistic complexity and nuance in characters, after all, kill stereotypes.
Question: In what way is Crossing different from the typical immigrant novel?
Andrew Fukuda: I wanted to depart from what we usually see in immigrant novels: instead of cloying and clichéd scenes of family meals, flowery mother-daughter relationships, and cathartic returns to the motherland, I wanted to layer questions of identity and ethnicity over a thriller plotline. In Crossing, this immigrant theme is propelled forward by the suspense generated in the ever-deepening mystery of the disappearances. This fusion of themes was a blend of my background: as an Asian American I was able to add depth to the ethnic theme; as a criminal prosecutor, I was able to develop nuances in the mystery aspect of the novel.
Question: Did you read much while growing up? Which writers capture your attention and imagination?
Andrew Fukuda: My parents--both university professors--encouraged me and my two brothers to read early on. Books lay everywhere at home. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I became a voracious reader. I was especially drawn to stories dealing with displacement, where characters suddenly find themselves in an alien environment with all previous reference points and cultural markers gone. Early on, that meant reading a lot of Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov. Now it means more Kazuo Ishiguro, Paul Yoon, and, of course, Jhumpa Lahiri. Reading (and rereading) her works is like a religious experience for me.