Timothy Wang has lived in Utah, Boston, New York, Seattle, Shanghai and Beijing, and still hasn’t set down his roots anywhere. He’s ethnically Chinese with an American passport, but he thinks himself a citizen of the world.
Timothy recently came out with a novel, Slant
which is about James, an Asian boy who likes video games and romantic comedies, realizes he’s gay while attending college in Boston. He begins a whirlwind exploration of the gay world, negotiating its many pitfalls, including the first kiss, his first love and the first drugs. At the same time, he has to manage his insecurities and the constant pressure from his tiger mom. After Stan, a charismatic young man, dumps him, James schemes with his calculating MIT brain to get Stan back, but loses himself along the way. Will he get what he’s after?
Who? name, age, what you identify as (or not)
Timothy Wang. I prefer not to display my age in public. I am gay.
You recently came out with a fiction novel, Slant, whose main character is a gay Asian-American boy. Can you tell us a little bit about the motivations for writing this book and the process of publishing the book?
The reason for writing this book is that I felt, at the time, there was so little literature about the contemporary gay Asian Americans, especially those that address the very real and wide-spread issues they face. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to write something fun and entertaining. I shared the draft with some of my friends, who said I should edit it and try to publish it. I tested out the waters two years ago and sent out one query letter. Much to my surprise, the editor replied back and wanted to see the manuscript, which I promptly sent out and it was promptly rejected. I learned the hard lesson of not sending out unpolished manuscripts. That launched a two year process of editing the manuscript and researching the publishing world.
After reading a few chapters of Slant, it became quite evident that the book wasn’t just a fluffy fiction novel that happened to have a gay Asian-American main character. There’s a lot of racial tension and deep cultural commentary that stems from the intersectionality of the main character’s Asian and gay identities. Can you respond to these aspects of your novel.
I wanted to explore the racial tension in the gay world, which I felt wasn’t even discussed or mentioned in most gay literature. The main thing is that so much of our sexual preferences are not just defined by gender, but also by race, which often is an important secondary attribute to our sexual identities. Okcupid often has fascinating statistics (http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/), and I found people’s comments on these numbers amusing also. Yet, I don’t want the main character to only whine when confronting these issues. The book focuses on James’ strategy for dealing with love, life and identity under these circumstances.
The main character of Slant has a rather abrupt coming out situation with his parents, it seems because they’re Asian. How about when you came out to your parents? Any stories? Any thoughts on being Asian and coming out to your parents.
I came out to my parents when I was nineteen, shortly after I admitted to myself that I was gay. Once I accepted myself, which was a long struggle, I just didn’t feel the need to hide it from my parents, since, after all, I live my life for myself and not for my parents, though I love them very much.
You work in China these days. Have you come out to any of your Chinese colleagues? How has coming out impacted your career or relationships with others?
I had came out to some of my co-workers who are also American expats here, and I had no problems coming out to my co-workers when I was working in Seattle. But for some strange reason, I just didn’t feel comfortable coming out to my colleagues who are Chinese nationals. I suspect it is because I already get plenty of questions from them about America and Asian Americans, which already shows a deep lack of understanding of non-homogenous worlds. Basically, I don’t want to deal with even more naive and intrusive questions.
What are your thoughts on the future of queer API activism in both America and in Asia?
In America, the key thing is raising our visibility in the media, and our portrayal in the media. Sometimes gay Asians aren’t even portrayed in a sexy/attractive manner in the gay media. In Asia, the key thing is simply to earn the respect for personal freedom.
You can purchase Timothy’s book here