The Long Arc of History

By Patrick Bohn ’05, November 24, 2020
Professor's book shines light on the immigrant experience

INSPIRATION FOR EACH OF THE STORIES in Jack Wang’s debut collection of fiction, We Two Alone — about the challenges faced by those of the Chinese diaspora—came to him individually. But as he was putting the stories together, he started to notice connections.

“There are a lot of books that focus on the experience of one family in one place at one time,” said Wang, associate professor and chair of the department of writing at IC. “I was trying to capture the immigrant experience across time and space. And as the stories came to me, I saw this larger arc.”

book cover for We Two Alone

As such, the stories in Wang’s book take the reader from 1920s Canada to modern-day New York, with stops in Shanghai, Port Elizabeth, London, and Vienna. And although the specific experiences of the characters in each of these stories differ, there’s an undercurrent running through them, according to Wang.

“In the first story, the character faces potential bodily harm, whereas the last story is about representation in Hollywood,” he said. “It’s analogous to the struggle of a lot of immigrant groups, where there’s a shift in the dangers they face. They become less overt but are still serious.”

Despite the serious circumstances surrounding many of the characters, Wang says the stories are focused on relationships and love. And he hopes that readers of the book come away feeling connected to the characters.

“We sometimes see certain groups of people as less than,” he said. “But I want people to realize that we’re all full-fledged human beings endowed with emotion and intelligence.”


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