"Over the Shoulder" by Leonard Chang

So I seem to have stumbled upon a budding genre within a genre: the Asian American mystery. I've already written before about Ed Lin's books about Chinese American detective Robert Chow. Well I just finished up Leonard Chang's Over the Shoulder, a mystery novel about Allen Choice, a Korean American security specialist (a.k.a. bodyguard) who investigates the murder of his coworker.

"How many mysteries have an Asian American protagonist? Not many. Maybe the racist portrayal of Charlie Chan. So why not? What better way to normalize the Asian American male than to have him deal with everyday life?" -Leonard Chang

There is a way to address both the Asian American communities and a mainstream audience, and that is to write a book for multiple genres.

Bottom line is if you can write a GOOD book in a mainstream genre (like mystery or sci fi) and address AA themes, then you can kill 2 birds with one stone. And that's what Leonard Chang does in this book Over the Shoulder. Like Ed Lin's books the mystery genre provides Chang an opportunity to explore race, family, Korean culture and the Asian American sensibility without overindulging in these issues. Amy Tan he is not.

This is a damn good book. You get a glimpse into the protagonist's head, his memories, his observation, and you feel for him. And yet despite all the punishment he takes in this story, you don't ever feel like he's a wimp. You root for him to find out what the hell happened in this whodunit.

I mentioned before that Don Lee's Yellow was my favorite AA lit book. Well now that I've read Over the Shoulder, I'll have to amend that. Yellow is my favorite short story collection. Leonard Chang's my favorite AA novelist.

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