Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Novel Has Been Published!!!

Just a notice that my novel has finally been published. After three years or so, it is now available for purchase through Amazon under the title, "The Legend Of Fu."

I self-published through the Amazon Create Space platform and is available only in paperback at the moment. 

You can buy the book directly at the following webpage.......


I have reprinted the novel's preface below......

History often surprises, with even the most casual study revealing unknowns about the past that, once learned – or re-learned – add a significant layer of context to the present. Without the past, we lose a significant portion of our identity, since our historical experience – both personal and societal – defines who we are, and frames the context of our experience. 

Identities are defined through our day-to-day interactions with those around us in an exchange of ideas and attitudes which can be thought of as our personal historical experience. All of this is set against a backdrop of engagement with the wider social, political, and historical context that has perhaps determined our social status and capacity to move across social strata, the opportunities that are available, and our level of engagement with, and inclusion in mainstream society.

It should follow, therefore, that the more knowledge we have of our history, the greater our ability to define who we are on our own terms. For those belonging to mainstream communities, this capacity for self-definition is a given - a natural by-product of being part of a mainstream whose identities are informed by saturation in a national historical biography and dominant culture.

For those whose lives are lived outside of the mainstream - such as racial minorities - this opportunity for self-definition is limited. Worse, as has often been the case in American history, racial minorities have been denied the opportunity to define themselves – both as individuals and communities - since access to their own historical experience has often been overwhelmed by mainstream narratives that have rendered them invisible, or have sought to outright marginalize and dehumanize them.

Either by design or disinterest, there are episodes of racial minority history that have been lost, forgotten, or even deliberately expunged from the historical memory. One such episode involves the history of the earliest mass immigration of Chinese people to North America in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. Coming from the old Chinese empire, these (mostly) male migrants were lured to America by stories of great fortunes to be made on the gold rich West Coast, or were brought as cheap sources of labor and recruited to drive America’s burgeoning industrial might. Many were enlisted as laborers used to lay down the Pacific railway that opened up the West for industry and settlement.

Even though as a nation we acknowledge this influx of Chinese migrants, our knowledge of their experiences once they arrived has largely been forgotten. There is certainly almost no cultural record of their considerable contribution to the settlement and development of the West Coast in the same way that the culture embraces Wild West cowboys and hardy settler families having given rise to that part of America’s identity which includes fearless pioneers and hard-living, rugged individuals who overcome any challenge thrown at them.

A study of these early Chinese migrants may reveal one very good reason why our culture has avoided mention of their experiences: they were on the receiving end of some of the harshest anti-immigrant violence ever witnessed on our shores. Between the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries - a period spanning three to four generations - in dozens of west coast towns, Chinese communities were targeted by mob violence fostered by anti-Chinese labor agitation and antagonistic political rhetoric.
 
They suffered beatings, arson, murder, and expulsion from their homes and communities during episodes of violence that echo the anti-Jewish pogroms and expulsions carried out during the nineteenth-century in Tsarist Russia. This novel is set in the period of American history which lacks a voice for the long silent and silenced victims of anti-Chinese pogroms.

Taking place in late-nineteenth century San Francisco, this story borrows heavily from actual historical events. Set against a backdrop of the constant threat of mob violence, the story is woven together by harvesting actual incidents of anti-Chinese violence spanning several decades and dramatizing them to form the core of the novel. These incidents are deeply troubling and difficult to read, but this is the case because the actual events that inspired them were disturbing - all the more so because there was a subsequent and equally disturbing historical silence that effectively pardoned perpetrators of the crimes committed against the first Chinese-Americans.
The novel also explores the power of racist narratives and the stereotypes that are both spawned and driven by them. One such stereotype to emerge in this period was that of the Asian arch-villain - a dehumanizing caricature that embodied all of the base qualities of human nature into the form of a scheming and rapacious Asian man whose innate wickedness manifested in his “misshapen” East-Asian racial characteristics.

Sly, steely-eyed and forever engaged in devious efforts to undermine and overwhelm Western civilization and its values, the Asian arch-villain became the symbol of the implicit and insurmountable difference between the incomprehensible Eastern and the rational Western mind. The notion of Asiatic incomprehensibility formed the foundation of anti-Chinese sentiment that still clouds modern day attitudes towards East Asia and its people. In the nineteenth-century, this idea of mutual incompatibility drove and justified anti-Chinese racism and led to violent expulsions from dozens of American west coast towns.

Other aspects of the arch-villain stereotype evolved over time, and more dastardly qualities were afforded it. By the nineteen-forties, the Asian arch-villain with all of his wickedness and deviousness had become a full-scale cultural phenomenon and was perhaps the most influential and visible representation of Asian men of the time. By this period, the Asian arch-villain had become, in his most extreme incarnation, a semi-supernatural creature, whose devilish plots were aided by ungodly mystical power and a threatening hyper-intelligence geared towards the destruction of the American way of life.

Given America’s past commitment to Caucasian racial purity and the consequent imposition of anti-miscegenation laws, it should come as no surprise that the Asian arch-villain was also imbued by his creators with an obsession for undermining racial purity. A rapacious craving for white women to be used as sexual objects and slaves became a major motivation ascribed to the Asian arch-villain. In real-life, the unfounded accusation that nineteenth-century Chinese communities were kidnapping white women for sexual slavery became a rallying cry that preceded many a mob rampage.

All of these factors have been incorporated into the story - particularly the supernatural aspect of the stereotype. Seeking to turn these racist fables on their heads, the stereotypes have been referenced to highlight the rabid prejudices that beset Chinese migrants of the time. This novel attempts to demonstrate the idea that significant swathes of American society engaged with, and reacted to, Chinese migrant communities based almost entirely on manufactured and false testimonies about them.

This is the power of the dehumanizing racial stereotype when coupled with a lack of opportunities for racial minorities to define themselves within the mainstream culture. The attitudes that drove Americans to violently expel and murder Chinese migrants in the nineteenth century became the framework through which subsequent Asian immigrant groups were marginalized, and which contributed to, and culminated in the large-scale incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II. With this novel, I hope to bring to our cultural consciousness the immense price paid - in the blood of pioneer Asian-Americans - for their right to call themselves Americans. 

It must be mentioned that even though Chinese migrants are the subject of the story, I am not an Asian of Chinese descent. As an author, I struggled with the idea that a lack of personal acquaintance with Chinese culture(s) might hinder my ability to describe a “Chinese experience”. This is a legitimate consideration, but misses the point of the project in a number of ways.

Firstly, when living under circumstances that are life-threatening, the most basic human instincts for survival supersede cultural conditioning. Thus, I developed the characters via their human natures, acting in accordance with universal survival instincts rather than through their cultural sensibilities.

Secondly, there is a danger that when people not of a particular culture attempt to write about it, they will utilize clich├ęs that detract from the narrative. This story relates dramatized actual historical events without being cluttered by cultural peculiarities that might detract from the primary intent of the novel. Thus, it is the hope of this author that readers will not become unnecessarily distracted by assessing the authenticity of cultural nuance, and thereby miss the larger historical overview.

Thirdly, although this is an Asian-American story based on a history that has affected, to varying degrees, all Asian-Americans, it is ultimately an American story. This is an important point, since it records long-forgotten American history that recalls the actions of both white Americans and those of the Chinese they victimized.

Some readers might find it difficult to believe the extremely cruel and violent nature of the events described in this novel. The historicity, however, of the anti-Chinese violence portrayed in the novel has been thoroughly explored in a very harrowing investigation of the subject made by Jean Pfaelzer in her book “Driven Out”, and to a lesser degree, in John Kuo Wei Tchen’s book, “New York before Chinatown”. I would like to direct readers to these two thoroughly researched historical books for further investigation into the experiences of Chinese immigrants of the period. 


4 comments:

  1. You indicate that you are Asian, but not Chinese, are you by any chance turkic or turkish?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi john

      Welcome!

      No I am neither turkic nor turkish! I am filipino, but I live in Turkey.

      The novel examines a period of American history that is almost blacked out by both the mainstream and Asian-Americans.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the reply.

    Btw, I plan on getting your book.

    ReplyDelete