Black Heron Press, 9780930773922, 317pp.
Publication Date: August 20, 2009
About the Author
Praise For Crossings…
"Leonard Chang’s newest novel CROSSINGS depicts the darker side of the American Dream for Korean Immigrants. In the underbelly of San Francisco, two deperate lives collide with tragic consequences. Sungmo, called Sam, is still grieving over his wife Sunny, whom he lost to cancer. He barely has time for his second wife, Yunjin, a honhyol (mixed race Korean), and his son David.
To pay for his wife’s medical expenses, Sam goes into debt to the local crime boss, Mr. Oh. Unable to pay him back, Sam is recruited as a hired strong arm and backup to Im, Oh’s brutal enforcer. Unha, an illegal from Korean, is forced into the life of an indentured servant. Her ability to speak English gets her a job as a hostess in one of Oh’s nightclubs, and saves her from prostitution, unlike the other girls who came with her. One evening, Sam and Unha meet at Oh’s club. It is a fateful meeting. Sam is struck by Unha’s resemblance to his late wife. This sets off a violent chain of events.
Chang’s writings in Asian American literature have consistently focused on the Americanized Korean experience. In his crime trilogy, the Korean American detective Allen Choice is the educated, assimilated American of Asian heritage. This is Chang’s niche in his character-driven works, with a distinct perspective in ethnic identity, storylines and themes.
Chang has a lean, muscular style, with a proclivity toward the noir. CROSSINGS actually steps back to the first generation or fresh-off-the-boat Korean experience. He describes people who are easy prety to local crime bosses; who quickly become victims of sex trade. These Koreans live below the radar. Whatever hopes they had coming here, the American Dream quickly becomes a perverted and twisted nightmare.
The scenes with Minji, another illegal, as a sex worker in a massage parlor are so brisk, you can’t really be sorry or angry. A more expanded passage of an Asian sex worker and her john could easily spill over into a maudlin, stereotypical scene. There is racism and cruelty, but it does not become a social or political platform with Chang at the helm. That’s not where he takes you.
In his short stories and with each consecutive novel, Chang continues to hone his craft, becoming more refined in his writing. It’s not just the structure of his stories or the memorable characters, it’s more about style. In CROSSINGS, the construction of his phrases are economic, yet powerful. He creates passages with cold realism and little sentiment. When Im orders Sam to punch a girl out in front of the other illegal Korean workers, all Sam can do is tell the girl to close her eyes. No more words are required. The reader knows what comes next; the brutality of a big man’s fist against a girl’s soft face. Chang deftly sets the pace and mood. It never feels like manipulation, just the stylish writing of a master at work.
In his Allen Choice detective trilogy, there is a cool toughness with touches of humor. In CROSSINGS, Chang strips everything down to the simplest and most basic. It’s noir — unsentimental, cruel, and ironic.
CROSSINGS is a bristling novel of misplaced honor and loyalties, family betrayals, love and salvation among people living, literally, in another America. This novel is a showcase for Chang’s mature and confident writing ability. He continues to carve out a unique place in exploring the Korean American experience, a storyteller in a league all his own." — Bill Drucker, Korean Quartlery, Winter 2010