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.
From Publishers Weekly
This novel presents an arresting, compelling look into the heart and mind of a disaffected high school freshman. Narrator Xing Xu reels the reader in early, promising to explain his notoriety, and the story behind “the disappeared children of Prattston, New York.” He’s an outsider and the only other Asian at the school is his friend, Naomi Lee. Beset by bullies, Xing’s a loner and a misfit at an upper-middle class, all white school. A few weeks into his freshman year, high school sports star Justin Dorsey is murdered. As news of the boy’s death circulates through the school, Xing barely avoids bullies by ducking into what turns out to be the music room. The teacher assumes Xing is there to audition for the school musical and discovers that Xing has talent. He asks the boy to come to school early for coaching. School settles into a routine, winter sets in and then a second student disappears. The town is jittery and the mood turns to near hysteria when a third student, Xing’s competition for the lead role in the musical, goes missing. The author has Xing’s voice dead on, and the loneliness of the boy’s life (dead father, mother working two jobs, few adults taking an interest in his life) and his bitter demeanor makes it seem probable that he knows more than he’s telling. Xing stays one step ahead of the reader, the truth of his world kept just out of reach. --This text refers to the manuscript reviewed as a part of the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.