An Interview With Andrew Xia Fukuda

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.

Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda (and Give-away)

And my parents wanted me to sing all the time, I remember, especially on the hot summer nights when the town lost electricity and the small bedroom fan stood limp and useless. Sing us to sleep, Xing, they pleaded, help us forget the heat. And I would sing soft lullabies in the dark until they stopped wiping sweat from their brows and kicking at invisible blankets at their feet. Sandwiched between them, feeling their body heat humming against me, I never felt safer, never felt calmer than when I sang into the night even after they had fallen asleep. But after I arrived on the shores of America, I did not sing very much. Something seemed to lodge itself into my throat, inhibiting me. In the cacophony of foreign sounds flooding my ears, I lost my ability to speak, much less sing. I became quiet; I diminished. Over time, I sang less and less until all those songs I’d once cherished disappeared somewhere within me.  And one day I stopped singing all together. (p. 28)

More than anything, to me, this novel is about facing obstacles. The obstacles of isolation and prejudice, the obstacle of poverty, sorrow at the loss of a parent, anxiety of performing and over all of this, fear of a predator who has been terrorizing the town by killing three boys.

Xing Xu is a freshman at Slackenkill High School. His life is lonely, as he is only one of two Asian students, and his mother must work all the time since his father was killed coming home from work with Xing Xu. His closest friend, Naomi, becomes the girlfriend of a White boy, while another girl named Jan Blair wants more from Xing than he can give.

In an ever accelerating plot of suspense, his story unfolds. It is a story that I can relate to, a White girl in the suburbs of Chicago, because who hasn’t felt intense loneliness at one time or another? Who hasn’t been misunderstood for who they really are? Who hasn’t wondered, at least once, why someone will not take the time to look beyond the superficial and into the essence of another person?

Overlaying these heart wrenching questions, though, is a plot which will grab you, with surprises at the end that I never saw coming. It is an  incredible novel.

I have one copy to send a lucky winner. Simply leave a comment as to your experience in High School to enter.

Half-Chinese and half-Japanese, Andrew Xia Fukuda was born in New York and raised in Hong Kong. After returning to America, he earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Cornell University. Later, he went on to work in Manhattan’s Chinatown with immigrant youth, whose struggles for acceptance in predominantly white America inspired him to write Crossing, his first novel. in 2009, Crossing was a semi-finalist in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest. Today he lives on Long Island with his wife and their two sons.

The winner of Crossing is Nadia. Congratulations, Nadia!