Searching for his roots

Searching for his roots

Raised as an expatriate child in HK, mixed-race author Andrew Xia Fukuda tells Mabel Sieh how writing helped him cement his identity

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Photo: Edward Wong
Author Andrew Xia Fukuda started writing when he was 13. He was a Year 12 student at King George V School when he won the Young Post Short Story Competition and made it onto the newspaper's front cover.

'I used to secretly pass a piece of paper back and forth with my twin brother in French class, and we would finish writing a short story together,' says the criminal prosecutor who now lives in New York. 'When it took longer and longer for the paper to come back, I realised my classmates who sat in between us were reading our story.'

Fukuda has always wondered about his roots - he is half-Chinese and half-Japanese, was born in Manhattan, and raised in Hong Kong.

'I grew up in Hong Kong as an expatriate kid. At the time, I felt I was living a privileged life as a hybrid of three different nationalities and cultures. It was hard for me to feel a sense of belonging,' says Fukuda, who also lived in Japan before moving to New York. 'Even when I was living in Japan, I was regarded as a gaijin.' The Japanese word means 'alien' or 'foreigner'.

It was this sense of displacement which led him to work as a youth counsellor for Chinese immigrants in New York's Chinatown. This inspired his debut novel, Crossing, a thriller which revolves around a teenage Chinese immigrant.

'These immigrant teenagers are nobodies; they feel insignificant, invisible and vulnerable. It's a feeling I can identify with,' Fukuda says.

In Crossing, 15-year-old Xing Xu is the only Asian student in an all-white high school in New York. And suspicion falls on him when his classmates suddenly start to disappear.

'Fifteen is a wonderful age; it's when young people search for their identity and want to know who they are,' Fukuda says. 'I wanted to portray him [Xing] as a real person who has flaws and is not necessarily likable. But Xing has a talent for singing which makes him unique. I believe there is something unique about every person.'

Fukuda thinks a lot of today's teenagers, including those in Hong Kong, are hybrids like him and may not have a sense of belonging to Hong Kong or where they live. 'As difficult as it may be, I think being a hybrid can help you to get a deeper understanding of yourself because it is not an easy fit and you have to really think it through. Writing has helped me to find myself; it helped to cement my identity,' he says.

Fukuda is currently working on his next novel - a book about vampires. 'Vampires carry a sense of loneliness and displacement, and I [have sympathy for] them.'

The choice of topic, though, has raised some eyebrows. 'It is not going to be like anything you've seen or read. But this is just how much I can tell you now,' he says.

Fukuda was in Hong Kong for the Book Fair which ended on Tuesday. Crossing was a finalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

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