Friday, June 14, 2013

Welcome Layne Wong!

A while back, I wrote a guest post for Kobo Writing Life  and one of the comments led me to a gorgeous book called Shanghai Love by Layne Wong. I was intrigued so when out of the blue I was contacted about Layne, I immediately asked her to guest post. Shanghai Love has such a beautiful cover, and the story is so fascinating and unique. I haven't yet read it, but I definitely will. Welcome, Layne!

Thanks, Sam. I wrote Shanghai Love as homage to my Asian heritage and Jewish conversion.  China’s openness to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler was unusual and a little known historical fact; I was drawn by the convergence of these cultures during an especially dark time for mankind. 

I traveled through China and spent time at various Shanghai and China sites where Peilin and Henri lived and traveled—the Hongkew District, the Chinese longtangs, the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, village night markets, the Kadoorie’s Marble Hall, and the spectacular Bund.
The novel is a reflection of my own personal struggle for identity.  The Chinese culture heavily emphasizes the group over the individual.  Yet I believe there’s room for both.  Peilin wrestles with her identity beyond obedient daughter-in-law and “ghost wife.” In the larger context, she opens herself up to Henri and a community unfamiliar to her.  Peilin shares her healing knowledge of herbs and Chinese medicine for the good of all society. 

The story incorporates the historical shame that accompanied mixed relationships.  I grew up in California; yet when I was young, my parents warned me of serious consequences to interracial marriages.  In fact during my parents’ time, they could’ve been arrested for a relationship outside their race.   I did marry outside of my Chinese culture, luckily at a time when the laws were revoked.  Still the social stigma lingers among many.  Shanghai Love is a classic tale of love prevailing over adversity.

Awareness builds understanding.  In this ever-evolving society--where children of mixed heritages are the fastest growing population in America--I wanted to inspire others to embrace their diverse backgrounds as well as their own uniqueness.

Chinese herbs are an additional passion that I’ve incorporated into the novel.  I worked as an herbal technician in an acupuncture office and became fascinated with these healing assets, their connection to nature, and their uses.  Like Henri, I could sit in Peilin’s herbal shop and watch her for hours.  The sights and smells of this organic medicine draw me in like a kid at Disneyland!

I’m an avid reader, TV fan and moviegoer.   I highly respect Amy Tan (Joy Luck Club, One Hundred Secret Senses), Helen Simonson (Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand), Kathryn Stockett (The Help), and Lisa See (Peony In Love, Snowflower and the Secret Fan). I love the works of Ang Lee (Life of Pi), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, The Color Purple) as well as Spielberg’s collaboration with Tom Hanks (Band of Brothers, The Pacific).  These and many other talented storytellers are a continual source of inspiration.

I weaved this remarkable connection between the Asian and Jewish culture into the narrative tapestry so that others could experience love’s everlasting capacity amid a journey of difficult choices during turmoil.  I hope your readers will enjoy the book and I welcome any questions, comments or stories they’d like to share!

Layne Wong is a novelist and advocate for stories that infuse personal heritage into the narrative tapestry. Weaving her Chinese legacy with that of her Jewish conversion, her debut novel explores a little known historical connection when these cultures collided as a result of Hitler's rampage and World War II.

Peilin is betrothed to Kwan Yao, the only son of a wealthy pearl farmer. Months before their wedding, Yao is killed by the Japanese in the Nanjing Massacre—but the Kwans insist on proceeding with the wedding anyway, and beautiful Peilin is married to a ghost husband. When an uncle passes away, the Kwans send Peilin to Shanghai to manage their family’s herbal shop. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Henri graduates from medical school just as Hitler rises to power. Henri flees to Shanghai, where he’s befriended by Ping, a young disfigured rickshaw driver—and Peilin’s brother. When Ping introduces Henri to Peilin, Henri becomes fascinated with Chinese herbs and the exotic culture surrounding him—and falls in love with Peilin.

The gripping tale of an unlikely love in a tumultuous time and place, Shanghai Love is a classic story of love’s triumph over adversity.

Connect with Layne!

Twitter- @laynewong1

Buy Shanghai Love!

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