I have three pieces of flash fiction up in FLAPPERHOUSE #14. “Investment Vehicle,” “Season’s Greetings (Everything Will Be Fine)” and “Vote for Arnie” are part of a novel-in-flash-in-progress set in a wild and crazy near-future America, not unlike the current-future version.
My essay “A Grandfather’s Guide to the Resistance” is up at SalonZine, Sunday Salon’s lit journal.
I do not regret making such political choices at that time, because political struggles are practical; the misconducts were not faults of individuals, but necessities in the revolution of history. In fact, no one could foresee to what extent power could deteriorate individuals and the political party in charge. This was the heavy price that we had to pay in the progression of civilization. What truly mattered, after all, was the awakening of the people.
—Guo Wan Check, from his memoirs. He is the author of over twenty Chinese books and best known for his book of essays entitled Opening the Window to America published in 1984. He also happens to be my grandfather. The translation is courtesy of Muyun Zhou.
A Grandfather’s Guide to the Resistance
By Leland Cheuk
Almost all of my childhood memories of my grandfather involve him sitting at the dining table, either penning Chinese characters on gridded paper or pasting news clippings onto the fleshy, airbrushed pages of Playboy. (My uncle, my cousin and I would eventually discover, was the loyal subscriber). The clippings were reference materials for my grandfather’s political essays.
He and my grandmother immigrated to the U.S. in 1980, and they were instrumental in raising us (my two cousins and my brother) while our parents worked. My grandfather wasn’t terribly attentive as a caretaker; he was very preoccupied with his writing. But he was a gentle man, who smiled easily and was never a disciplinarian. He specialized in political op-eds, though he had once aspired to write what he considered the highest form of literature: fiction.
But politics got in the way. Born in 1925, he came of age during a period in Chinese history that was more turbulent that any American can imagine. There was the Chinese Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists who eventually colonized Taiwan. Then there was the Second Sino-Japanese War, during which the Japanese army came through my grandfather’s hometown of Wuzhou, forced his high school to move into the mountains, and burned down the hotel his father owned. Then came the second part of the Chinese Civil War, which ended in 1950 only to be followed by the Korean War (known to the Chinese as “The War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea”). There was the Anti-Rightist Movement of the late fifties, followed by the famine caused by Mao’s disastrous collectivization campaign called the Great Leap Forward, which preceded the purges of the Cultural Revolution of the sixties and seventies. Exactly zero of the first fifty years of my grandfather’s life were not buffeted by the harshest rails of politics.
“This book comes from an important voice of our time. Where some pre-election fiction is aging quickly and badly, these stories stand attuned to our country and its dimming prospects and isolation amidst a hive.”
“Oh, Millennials. Gen X’s little buddies, who took our legacy of dissipation and doubt and made poetry of it. Our two generations: lives without world war, full of media, parents who are obliged to work a lot to stay afloat, economic lives debt-ridden at age eighteen. Gen X witnessed the flame (though not the warmth) of Boomer prosperity, and Millennials see only a wisp of smoke. Letters from Dinosaurs is a post-apocalyptic work from that vantage point.
The apocalypse is not a singular event but decades of greed eroding a formerly solid middle class, and the resulting general sense of anxiety. Student loan repayments are larger than monthly rent; meanwhile on every screen, we see youthful billionaires espousing enlightened ideas of how you can attain the dream, too. Living through this is the main job of Millennial characters in Letters.”
In which, regarding the publishing industry, I say: “The System Is Rigged!”
“I first met Leland Cheuk when he read for Dead Rabbits — a reading series I co-host in New York City. Thoughtful, charismatic, and passionate about his work and the work of others, he immediately struck me as someone thinking on multiple planes about art and its role within the world. His writing operates in the same way; The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong is at once heartwarming and wrenching, examining heritage, immigrant life, and injustice in America with bite and comedic verve.
After publishing his first two books, The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong (CCLaP Publishing, 2015) and Letters from Dinosaurs (Thought Catalog Books, 2016), he’s now moving into publishing. I talked with Leland over the course of a few days via email, discussing his new endeavor, 7.13 Books, the state of modern publishing, and issues of inclusivity, diversity, and more.
The Millions: So, tell me about the mission of 7.13 Books. As we both know, there’s a wealth of small presses in the world now. What separates 7.13 from them? What unites it with them?”
The Asian American Literature That Got Me Through 2016, by R.O. Kwon
“Donald Trump, Brexit, Marine Le Pen, Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders—2016 has been a banner year for nativists and white supremacists, and I’ll join in with all those lamenting a catastrophic year’s events. Not everything’s been hateful, though. I’ve loved, in particular, one heartening trend countering the upsurge of xenophobia: this year’s bonanza of English-language fiction published by writers of Asian descent.”