Tag Archives: A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific

On Hua Hsu’s ‘A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific’


WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be “serious”? This is a question I often think about because I happen to be an academic who studies Asian-American literature and culture. For a long time, I had to defend the seriousness of what I studied. Even now, when I tell other academics in a different discipline (say political science or education) that this is my area of specialty, they give me a funny look. Some will respond, “Do you mean you study US-Asian relations?” Or, “Asia is big.” Or, “Oh, Amy Tan.”

Fortunately, such responses are becoming rarer. There are enough prominent American writers of Asian descent that the idea of an “Asian-American literature” doesn’t seem strange. Just as important, there is an impressive body of scholarship devoted to this subject that makes it more difficult to be dismissive.Read more

Reconsidering the Work of a Chinese Immigrant Writer of the 1930s

Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific
By Hua Hsu
276 pp. Harvard University Press. $29.95.

HTHsiangFor critics and scholars, the greatest rewards are to be gained in bestowing attention on authors whose stock is already high. Why, then, should a writer look toward one of the forgotten? And how to select someone to elevate? This is the task that Hua Hsu, an associate professor of English at Vassar, sets for himself in his smart new book, “A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific.” His chosen subject is the mostly unknown H. T. Tsiang (1899-1971), a Chinese immigrant who “created some of the most ambitious and, at times, bizarrely self-aware works of modern American literature.”