"As soon as Jack Yu caught the address, he knew. Chinatown again. He was going back to the place he'd left behind when he moved to Brooklyn's Sunset Park, just across the river but a world away."Professional courtesy prevents me from quoting further (My copy is an uncorrected proof), but that bit is nicely stark and economical, and the book looks set to be as rich with atmosphere and incident as Chang's previous novel, Year of the Dog.
Early in Red Jade, Yu, a New York police detective who has transferred out of Chinatown's Fifth Precinct only to find himself thrown right back to investigate an apparent murder-suicide, reflects bitterly on sensitivity, diversity and the pernicious misuses to which "people in command" put these once admirable concepts. As it happens, Chang's books are salutary lessons in what diversity was before the corporate sensitivity peddlers took the word over for that brief, embarrassing period in the 1990s.
The inhabitants of Yu's Chinatown have quite enough on their minds without worrying all the time about the city's other ethnic groups. Sure, there are racially tinged confrontations with whites and blacks; this is New York, after all.
But tension exists as well between longtime Chinatown residents and Fukienese newcomers. And in one marvelous observation, Yu attributes the new, slick decor of Chinese restaurants, so unlike the rambling old places of his youth, to Hong Kong influence.
Now, that's real diversity.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010
Labels: Henry Chang