As an Asian-American, I feel like in terms of representation in books, my access has been limited to travel brochures, WWII, and arranged marriages. If it’s part of our culture, I get that it’s important not to forget history, but personally, it gets depressing after a while especially in fiction. We already have horrible real life, we can’t just be people in shit we make up!?
That’s why when I did do the occasional inquiry and found Andrew Xia Fukuda’s Crossing, my interest was peaked.
Look, I’m poor and like to get the most for my money. I don’t watch every trailer, and I skim summaries. Could that lead to getting into things I wouldn’t like? Sure, but I’d like to think that I could still objectively give credit where it’s due.
My takeaway from Crossing’s summary skim was that it’s winter, the narrator is a Chinese outcast, there are disappearances and possibly murders, and the outcast– being on the fringes of society and being able hear gossip and rumors undetected– tries to solve the crimes.
Do you know how awesome that would’ve been!? Like an Asian Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Unfortunately, protagonist Xing Xiu is a selfish loner with probable Nice Guy Syndrome. While I recognize that having less than reputable characters is itself part of representation, I’m having a challenging time reconciling characters who are people that are underrepresented but are terrible people. I feel like there’s almost an overcompensation to show these people who already had their spotlight stolen from them can be just as immoral as people about whom have always been written by having them be serial killers, etc.
That was just a personal concern. I understand that Xing can be self-absorbed. He’s a teenaged boy. His loses his father. He’s dealing with brutal racism, so I could even understand his picking on other kids as deflection, self-preservation.
However, Xing only has one friend at school, the only other non-white kid who is also Chinese, Naomi, and he also treats her like crap. They met in elementary school where Xing began to help her with school and English. Naomi surpasses Xing of which he often thinks about and how she is destined for Ivy League schools.
Yet, he insists: “she did not understand because, although Asian, she was a girl, and so did not have to live under the constant shadows of Fu Manchu, Seung-Hui Cho, and Long Duk Dong.” Does he really think she’d never hear Full Metal Jacket/”Me So Horny”? Does he think she’d never be called a geisha or called a “race traitor” by entitled males whose advocacy stops with whether white women will sleep with them? Also, the way Xing describes Naomi veers on fetishizing. After the preceding quote, I didn’t really care what happened to Xing.
So what happens to Xing? He ends up getting suspected of the murders, fleeing at first to find Naomi and tell her his side. There is a great line in this conversation in which Naomi says, “Xing, why do you hate yourself so much?” I really wish she’d let him have it though.
Due to a jumbled ending (including oddly-placed passages about Xing’s immigration), as a plot-driven story, Crossing is disappointing. It’s more interesting to view it through a character study lens that helps the reader get inside the mind of one particular teenaged boy who is also a Chinese immigrant probably in the lower-middle class. He constantly has his guard up and looking out for his own interests because nobody else is.
Because of my personal stake with Naomi, one interesting conversation I think that Crossing brings up is how communities of color treat their genders be it parents to children or among peers and how the genders think the others are treated.
Initially, I thought that was a big deal, but I think the main themes are of fear and paranoia, some witch-hunting, Crucible-type shit not only by the white majority but the fear of the outsider looking at them, obviously. Additionally, it shows the weight of racism and bullying, hatred, fear and paranoia as I believe that the reader is supposed to think that Xing is going to falsely confess. If you get treated like garbage enough, you might just believe it.
I had other issues with Crossing such as the average young adult writing, the diversity of the school (racially, maybe I’d believe but why would Xing and Naomi be going to school with rich kids?), the news reports and police behavior but may have overlooked them if the ending didn’t sound like something I wrote when I had to make a requirement.
If I were a teacher who had to cover themed blocks or segments and there were blocks for racism or McCarthyism and students could pick from a list of books to read for each theme, I’d include Crossing in those themes. However, I wouldn’t make the whole class read it, and for the love of God, don’t choose it for the one day you acknowledge Asians.