interviewing Danuta Gleed Award-winning author Jack Wang about his stellar debut short story collection, We Two Alone, published by House of Anansi. Through our wide-ranging discussion held earlier this month over Zoom, Wang talks about his interest in transnational and the Chinese diaspora, and how he wanted to write about Chinese people living in different eras and different parts of the world. Here's a snippet:
Sampson: [T]hat’s another thing readers will notice: the wide array of settings for these stories. You’ve got tales set in Canada, China, Austria, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This really highlights your core theme of the collection, that of the transnational nature of racism, especially anti-Asian racism. How did you come to taking this prismatic approach to settings and their impact on discrimination, oppression, and even genocide?
Wang: That’s a great question. I feel like there are certain narratives about being Asian in general and Chinese in particular, about coming to North America, that have been done, and I didn’t want to write those kinds of stories. Moreover, I spent many years writing about my own experiences, sort of semi-autobiographical, but I just found that they were more interesting when refracted through other times and places. I wasn’t really conscious of this until I wrote “The Night of Broken Glass.” The idea came to me when I was in Shanghai for the World Exposition in 2010 and I saw a plaque at the Israeli pavilion dedicated to Ho Feng-Shan, the man who was the consul-general of China in Vienna during the time of Kristallnacht. It fascinated me that I had never heard of him, and I began to wonder why I hadn’t heard of him, and so I just began to follow my own fascination with the Chinese diaspora more generally. And the more I did, the more I began to ask: Why haven’t I read more about the Chinese elsewhere, in Africa, in Europe? So I wrote stories about the Chinese diaspora in other places because there seemed to be a dearth of them.
You can read our interview in full here. Enjoy!