headshot_vhWhat’s your book about?

I write about immigrant families navigating a new America, straddling cultures and continents. From a Hong Kong movie idol fleeing a sex scandal, to an obedient daughter turned Stanford pretender, from a Chinatown elder summoned to his village, to a Korean-American pastor with a secret agenda, the characters in the collection illustrate the conflict between self and society, tradition and change.

2016-02-02-vanessa-hua-deceit-and-other-possibilities-book-cover-design-04aPerhaps you’ve heard of me?

Maybe you’ve listened to a song by the Jump Boys, a group I fronted, which had three gold records that launched countless jingles for a remarkable array of consumer products. Or on television, as the host of a reality show where contestants dared to eat horse cock sandwiches and cling to helicopters zooming over a tropical bay. On billboards, hawking heavy gold watches, cask-aged cognac, or alligator leather shoes, my shirt unbuttoned to reveal six-pack abs.

I didn’t think so.

In America, most likely the only reference you’ve seen of me would be a blurb, news of the weird, along the lines of “those funny Asians, at it again.” Video-game pets, robot butlers, used schoolgirl panties sold in vending machines, and the sex scandal involving Kingsway Lee, the Hong Kong star whose compromising photos were stolen off his laptop, played out in the tabloids, and posted on the web.

Thousands of shots from my cell phone, scoring with scores of women: the actress wife of my former bandmate; the Canto-pop star and lover of a reputed mobster; and the daughter of a shipping magnate with ties to Beijing and the Red Army.

I’ve been forced to flee to the safest place I could think of, where no one would recognize me: my hometown.

Some authors might dateline their novels from London and Paris, but Susan Straight writes by hand while parked in her car, waiting to pick up her daughters or escaping her house crowded with friends and family.  Fitting, because she sets much of her work in the town of Rio Seco, a parallel world to her hometown of Riverside, located sixty miles east of downtown Los Angeles.  A land where, she writes, “the land and sun and smog and violence and people could be forbidding, but the same land and sun and people offered survival and love and tungsten-hard loyalty to each other.”

Her latest novel is the last in the Rio Seco trilogy she worked on for fifteen years.  A Million Nightingales (2006), tells the story of Moinette, a beautiful mixed-race slave and her journey to freedom.  Take One Candle to Light a Room (2010) follows Victor, a present-day descendant of Moinette.  The young man falls into trouble on the fifth anniversary of his mother Glorette’s death.  Between Heaven and Here returns to the night of her murder.  Each chapter, told by different character, reveals the mystery, pain, and beauty of Glorette and Rio Seco.