China_Final_2_BleedsOriginally published in 1937, And China Has Hands, the final published novel of literary gadfly and political radical H.T. Tsiang (author of The Hanging on Union Square), takes place in a 1930s New York defined as much by chance encounters as by economic inequalities and corruption. Tsiang shows us the world of 1930s New York through the eyes of Wan-Lee Wong, a newly arrived, nearly penniless, Chinese immigrant everyman who falls in love with Pearl Chang, a biracial Chinese and African American woman who wanders into his life.

And China Has Hands editor and Tsiang scholar Floyd Cheung writes in his Afterword: “H. T. Tsiang, like his characters, sometimes seems like a man living at the wrong historical moment. He wrote about the double-consciousness of the Asian-American experience before the category of Asian-American was invented. He depicted a half-Black, half-Chinese character before the rise of multiracial consciousness or mixed-race studies. He performed the role of a trickster critic during a time when audiences wanted a native informant. He railed against Chiang Kai-Shek at the very moment that Chiang was being named Time Magazine’s “person of the year.” In addition, he endured Chinese exclusion, the Great Depression, World War II, and the McCarthy era. In short, Tsiang sailed against the wind and tides during his time in the U.S.”

OishiAuthorPhotos-17You say it took you 50 years to write your novel. What took you so long?

Fifty years ago, I was still a young man and didn’t have much to do, so I thought I would write the great Japanese-American novel. I thought it might a take a couple of years. But I had the time.

 

So what went wrong?

I needed a story. You know, drama with conflict, passion, pathos. Those kinds of things.

fdb_booklanding_kayaweb-676x956The Okie  

1940 – 1941

When school reopened in the new year, Tex was in Hiroshi’s third- grade class. He wore overalls as before, but now he had shoes as well—though they were high-tops, which no other kid, not even farm boys, would ever think of wearing to school. The sole on one of Tex’s shoes was so loose that you could see his toes.