So if China’s going to be the capital of the 21st Century, what does it mean to leave this new metropole or come back? Photographer Alan Chin and writers Suzanne Ma and Val Wang, moderated by Wah-Ming Chang, touch upon what it means to immigrate from China and what it means to return--in a time when 50 million Chinese live overseas, and when more people migrate within China than anywhere else in history.
In 2008, Pulitzer-nominated photographer Alan Chin went back to his ancestral village in Toishan--until the 1960s, the origin of two-thirds of Chinese American migration. You can see a slideshow of his haunting black-and-white photographs in The Margins. He’ll screen his photographs, some of which are in the collection at the Museum of Modern Art. Val Wang also returned to the mainland and her book Beijing Bastard: Into the Wilds of a Changing China (Gotham 2014) documents Val’s travels back to the land her family fled before the communist takeover. A rebellious outcast, Wang chronicles the outsiders caught in the tension between the old and new in late nineties Beijing. The arrow of immigration points the other way in Meet Me In Venice (Rowman & Littlefield 2015) by Wall Street Journal contributor Suzanne Ma. The book tells the untold true story of thousands of Chinese emigrants who end up in an unlikely place: not San Jose, New York or LA, but Venice Italy, a city that’s harbored Chinese migrants for centuries. Wah-Ming Chang is the Managing Editor at Melville House. /\ /\ \/\/ \/\/
Join us as writers Alex Gilvarry and Viet Ngyuen read novels that laugh in the darkness of American empire, whether it’s the Vietnam War or the War on Terror. Released on the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Viet Ngyuen’s intense satirical novel The Sympathizer (Grove Atlantic 2015) follows a young multiracial Vietnamese man who escapes the Vietnam War thanks to a CIA airlift. His wife and children killed before transport, he arrives in Los Angeles where he helps an auteur hire Vietnamese refugees to work as extras in a film not unlike Apocalypse Now. Did we mention that he’s also a spy for the North Korean communists? Already hailed as a mordant classic about war and complicity, The Sympathizer writes the Vietnam War from an often complex and ironic POV: that of the Vietnamese themselves. As Philip Caputo wrote in The New York Times Book Review’scover story--the novel fills a “void in the literature, giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of 40 years ago in a new light.” In Alex Gilvarry’s From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant (Viking 2012), a Filipino fashion designer finds that he’s wandered a little far from the haute couture world of Brooklyn--when he’s accidentally deported to Guantánamo. (Upon arriving, he strips his orange jumpsuit of its sleeves.) The novel--which earned Alex the 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation--features both a rich Bellowesque voice, footnotes both ironic and satirical, and a devastating finale. Memoirs is--in the words of The New York Times--”a left-handed love letter to America” written to “to scare the smirk off our mugs as we enter Year 10 of Guantánamo’s use as a prison, with no end to the suffering in sight.” Moderated by novelist Gina Apostol, whose novel Gun Dealers’ Daughter (W.W. Norton 2013) won the 2013 Pen Open Book Award. You can read an excerpt from it in The Margins.
Come hear debut novelists Julie Wu and Cecily Wong tell stories about two islands that have proven central to the overseas Chinese experience: Taiwan and Hawaii. Travel back in time to 1940s Taiwan. The loveless but plucky hero of Julie Wu’s Dickensian novel The Third Son is Saburo, the family scapegoat and the third (read: least favorite) son of a local bigwig. He’s got a crush on Yoshiko, but he’s got other problems to deal with--such as malnutrition, the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, the handover to the equally autocratic Chinese National Army, and worst of all, his family. As Marie Myung-Ok Lee, author of Somebody’s Daughter and a co-founder of AAWW, writes: “This novel has it all: mystery, family, the sweep of history, humor. Once you begin to read the story of Saburo Tong, you won’t be able to put it down.” Cecily Wong’s ambitious novel Diamond Head tells the story of six decades of women in the Leong family. Following the turbulence of the Boxer Rebellion, the Leongs migrate out of China and end up in the island of Oahu--where they find themselves entangled by both family secrets and the ensnaring lines of love and fate. Part murder mystery, part Chinese Hawaiian history, “Diamond Head takes the family saga to a new and very high place. We are given an intimate glimpse of two cultures: The Chinese and the Hawaiian, and we accompany our characters from the Boxer Rebellion, to the Second World War, to the changing days of the early sixties. Diamond Head offers many revelations; the reader follows the fortunes of this family, breathlessly, hungry for more” (Mary Gordon, author of The Liar's Wife). /\ /\ \/\/ \/\/