Camy Tang’s Sushi Series

My Google Alert, not so intelligently searching simply for “Asian American literature”, recently linked me to a BlogHer blog entry “Finally! Characters in Romance Novels Who Look Like Me – and Maybe You, Too.”

I thought the entry title and photos said it all, but it doesn’t remotely. The east Asian author the blogger chose to spotlight was Camy Tang who started publishing her Sushi Series in 2007 with Sushi for One? The series centers around four cousins who are the only Christians in their family. Only Uni and Single Sashimi were published in 2008 and centered on two other cousins. Then after a break, Tang wrapped it up in 2011 with Weddings & Wasabi.

 

 

Cover images from camytang.com

Get a load of those names and covers images! I guess that is what sells and is par for the course in the world of romance and, get this, “Christian chick lit”. The tagline on the cover of Sushi for One? reads, “Sometimes romance needs a kick of wasabi.” Groan.

While it is a leap to see ethnic characters–and modern ones–in this genre, it doesn’t count so much to me when it is just as a result of someone non-white making a foray trying to publish in the genre. I think the Christian aspect is a bit of a twist and hurray for that. I also worry because Tang doesn’t sound like a Japanese name but yet the series is named “Sushi Series” and the titles make reference to components of a sushi meal. While she has all the rights to right about Japanese cousins, does it perpetrate the notion that all Asians are the same?

I have also thought that was something I could do differently as a writer, rather than write the typical coming of age or multigenerational novel: write a trashy, lurid romance novel that could get picked up by Harlequin. It would have a Chinese protagonist female wooed by all sorts of different ethnicities of men (so maybe I would market a series) including a totally strapping updated Chinese Fabio male.

But if someone is supposed to write from experience, well then I guess I should not be the one to write it! I like the idea though and thus think that reading the Sushi Series would be a form of “research”. I don’t want to line my bookshelf with books like these but can’t justify $12 for the Kindle version either. So reading this series will have to go on the back-burner….

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3 thoughts on “Camy Tang’s Sushi Series

  • February 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm
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    HI there,
    I’m sorry you don’t care much for my titles and tagline. The titles were my publisher’s decision, but I kind of like my tagline because it made me stand out from all the other writers in the Christian market who don’t or can’t write about Asian culture. My publisher thought it was a good selling point for me since at the time Sushi for One came out, there were no Christian novels with Asian American protagonists. There were novels with Asian protagonists who were from overseas, but not a hero or heroine who had been born and raised in America, and most non-Asians don’t even realize how different it is to be raised Asian in a predominantly white culture as opposed to being raised in an all-Asian culture.

    As for the Japanese/Chinese part, I’m sorry if you thought it looks like I’m trying to make all Asians alike. I am fourth generation Japanese but most of my friends and my husband are Chinese American, so my Sushi series has cousins who are both Japanese and Chinese, to show the slight difference between the two cultures.

    I also didn’t want to write the typical coming of age/coming to terms with her cultural identity women’s fiction novel about an Asian girl (which it seems to be what every other Asian writer writes about), so I wrote what I knew–growing up Asian American and having the same types of crazy/stupid things happen to her, having crazy/stupid relatives, and making crazy/stupid decisions. Also, I wanted to show the Asian American Christian culture, which I’ve found to be a slightly different subculture from the non-Christian Asian American culture.

    As a writer, also, you don’t have to write only from experience. If you did, you’d run out of stuff after six or twelve books. My latest one is a cross between Stephanie Plum and Joy Luck Club, a humorous romantic suspense about the Japanese mafia in San Francisco, of which I have no personal experience. The research on that was a little touchy since there’s an actual Japanese mafia in San Francisco, and after talking to some FBI public relations people, I ended up creating an entirely fictional mafia family, similar to the Sopranos, focusing more on the family dynamics than the breaking kneecaps parts since it’s a humorous romance rather than a serious novel.

    If you email me, I’d be happy to send you an Advanced Reading copy.
    Camy

  • February 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm
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    Oh, another thing I forgot to point out, since most of my readers are not Asian, my publicist and marketing director aimed the marketing campaign (covers, titles, etc.) at non-Asian Christians, so naturally the Asian part is a little on the nose. But my publisher is trying to sell books, and since the content is closer to real life, they believed that an “excess” of Asian marketing would market the series to readers (Christians mostly in the midwest and south) who know nothing or very little about Asian culture. It’s a side of business that I hadn’t thought about until my marketing director explained it to me.

  • February 19, 2012 at 10:25 pm
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    Hi Camy,

    Thanks so much for reading my post. I underestimate how well it can do in Google searches and that authors might have an alert set up to be notified immediately of posts regarding their publications. That said, I’m so glad the BlogHer blogger mentioned your series amongst her list, making me aware of your books to add to my “To Read” list. That was my bottom line–the series intrigues me as someone who has been seeking novel Asian-American literature. I think I’m looking for the book that would best describe my life! (So I don’t have to write it.) Or it’s my “research” to see how others have done what I hope to eventually do. I’m curious how Asian American Christian culture is different from the Asian American culture I know.

    It is fascinating how when a publisher is involved their wishes and expertise enter in the equation of producing the book. Your target market is not me exactly and so my opinion doesn’t matter quite as much. Even if I’m not Christian, I’m not exactly sure how it targets that genre, but I didn’t do my research on Christian literature covers to see the norm.

    I spoke too quickly about the Japanese/Chinese part, assuming just Chinese ancestry based on your name and some Google search may have enlightened me to otherwise. I think it’s perfectly awesome to have the mix and have that reflected in your series. Hopefully readers will also notice and appreciate the differences amidst the similarities.

    csg

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