Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Release Day Interview: Andrew Xia Fukuda

How did Crossing come to be?

After working with immigrant teenagers in Manhattan's Chinatown for a few years, I was struck by their general disillusion with America and their sense of isolation. One time, a group of us were traveling in a very rural part of upstate New York and decided to attend church. We walked into a random church nearby; it turned out to be an all-white church. I still remember with an awful vividness the looks of suspicion and cold stares thrown our way throughout the service. Just because we looked different, just because we were Chinese. Those stares stayed with me for a long time, their coldness. That experience got me thinking: what if an immigrant teen had to live in this kind of community all alone? And what if something terribly, mysteriously awful started to happen in that community?

If you could meet any of your characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Good question! A reader knowledgeable of my novel might be surprised at my answer on this one. Although I delight in the three-dimensional complexity of Xing and have a (not-so-secret) crush on Naomi, it's actually Miss Durgenhoff I'd love to meet in real life. She has an aspect that draws me to her. There's something about the softness and sweetness of her soul that, because of the circumstances of her life, would have, for other people, turned to bitterness. Kathryn Stockett said "When a person has that much sadness and kindness wrapped up inside, sometimes it just pours out as gentleness." That's Miss Durgenhoff to a T, and I can easily see why the lonely Xing would find such warmth and comfort in her. Plus, if I did meet her, I know she'd cook me up a feast.

Have you ever had any of Xing's experiences?

To a lesser extent. At the risk of overgeneralizing, there are two kinds of Asians in America: those who are recently immigrated andthose who were born in this country. 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, with significantly more obstacles to overcome. Because of language barriers and cultural misunderstandings, immigrant teens often make easy targets, especially during school years when ostracization is more overtly racist. The recent incidents at the South Philadelphia High School come to mind here. Xing comes solidly from the immigrant Asian camp, while my background is more from the Asian American camp. My challenges have been, accordingly, more diluted than those faced by Xing who, by token of his isolated setting, faced very concentrated forms of these same challenges. But I think even second-generation Asian Americans can identify with many of the struggles Xing goes through. The words of Professor Frank Wu apply, though in differing degrees, to both the first- and second-generation Asian in America: "I alternate between being conspicuous and vanishing, being stared at or looked through. Although the conditions may seem contradictory, they have in common the loss of control. I am who others perceive me to be rather than how I perceive myself to be."

Is there a specific message you hope readers of Crossing take away with them?

I hope not! I've found that novels with a "message" are often preachy and didactic, and I tend to avoid them like the plague. So one of the last things I wanted to do in a novel with such strong racial overtones was to come across as preachy. What I do hope readers take away from Crossing is a sense that they've crossed over and stood in someone else's shoes and lived inside his skin for a few days. To feel his fears and the fragility of his hopes, to really understand someone so different from themselves. And that's one of the reasons why this novel is a thriller - it's difficult to really 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. Hopefully, Crossingsucceeds in snagging readers into its pages and into the life of a Chinese immigrant teen named Xing Xu.

Crossing is officially released today! Congrats, Andrew, and thanks for doing the interview!

Click here to visit Andrew's website!


  1. What a great interview. I want to read the book. I am half Chinese and have lived in the States all my life, but my mother came here from China and her stories still resonate with me. Thanks. My first book, Karma Bites, comes out in July!


  2. I'm so looking forward to reading Crossing. happy release day!

    The quote by Professor Wu really struck me. It's quite true. Wow. I love a good quote :) I also like how you didn't write the story to tell a certain message, you just told the story. My guess is that most readers will take a lesson away from the book of some sort, but in an enjoyable way.

  3. Awesome interview, I look forward to reading the Crossing!

  4. Hey, Kelsey, this book is getting GREAT buzz!

    Andrew comes from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest (now underway in it's third year on Amazon.com - sponsored by Penguin and Amazon Encore now, I think). Some of my women's fiction has done well in that contest and LOTS of great books - even NON-winners have come out of there. You can all check it out by Googling Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award - if you love to read, the new writers there LOVE it if you read their excerpts and leave reviews, and this year was the first year with a YA category all its own. Also cool this year: SEVERAL teen writers have made it to the Semifinals with their YA manuscripts. I'll come back later and post a direct link, but check it out.

    And keep doing what you're doing, Kelsey. You ROX. :)

    Gae Polisner
    The Pull of Gravity, FSG, spring 2011

  5. Here, Kelsey, here's actually a link to the discussion forums of the contest, but more particularly, the list of Teens that made the semifinals. From there, you'll be able to find the main site too. All you amazing YA readers go there and check out the fresh, new, YOUNG! talent. :)



I love getting comments, so feel free to leave your thoughts :)