For the first time in a while, I found myself so enraptured in a book that I stayed up until 4 in the morning trying to finish. The book TRAIL OF BROKEN WINGS surprised me. I found the book, I hate to admit, because I was the runner up for a book award, which Sejal Hadani won. After reading a slew of really terrible indie books, I decided to read one that beat me out in a contest. To be honest I can’t remember which one it was; in any case I’m glad I did.
I am generally not a fan of books that have multiple main characters, I find that the author’s tend to rush the story lines and the book ends up being unsatisfying. Not the case here. TRAIL OF BROKEN WINGS is about a family who suffered from an abusive father and how they, as adults, try to reconcile their lives. The characters are rich, and often do things that make the reader cringe, but root for them nonetheless.
I have struggled for a long time with my own identity. Am I Asian? Am I American? Do I have to pick? The Asian identity is rooted in criticism, distrust, and distance. But I was lucky enough to grow up in America where every kid is told they have potential and every dream is a real possibility. But when it came time to describe the main character in my first book, I chose to make her white. Not because I despise being Vietnamese, but because I didn’t think anyone would read it.
Asians are stereotyped as doctors and lawyers or pharmacists, we are pragmatic and responsible. And as with all stereotypes, there is some truth to it. My parents’ idea of getting creative is building a dog house using scrap wood and has more to do with problem solving (and saving money) than creating art for art’s sake. They are immigrants who had to earn everything they have so of course they are this way.
They did their best to try and instill the same values in me. I graduated high school with a 4.6 GPA and attended a well known and reveres university, UCLA. When they sent me off to college, I took with me their hopes and dreams for a better life.
I wasn’t supposed to be a dreamer, yet here I am living in a world of make believe.
As I read Hadani’s book, I had to wonder to myself, how much of it is real? How much of the pain and suffering that her characters face does she know about first hand? Maybe none, maybe some, and maybe it doesn’t matter. As a reader, it certainly doesn’t matter, but as a fellow author, I want to know.
Part of finding our voice, is infusing who we are into our writing. And what are we if not the experiences we’ve had in life? I have been told that BLUE SUN, YELLOW SKY is so vivid that it reads like a memoir, and I’ll admit that there are moments stolen from my actual life, but for the most the part Aubrey’s journey is her own.
But when I read something like TRAIL OF BROKEN WINGS, which has captivated audiences with it’s 4,000+ reviews and thousands of highlighted passages and I have to wonder. Did she connect with readers so well because she made herself vulnerable? And if that’s the case, am I willing to do the same?
My second book, which I’m working on now, takes place in Brooklyn with a Vietnamese protagonist. In part it’s because I believe it’s time I stop hiding from myself, but also because like every little girl watching TV as a kid, I would like to live in a world where I’m represented and reflected in the mainstream media.
And, as a creative person I recognize that it starts with me.