The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN alum and award-winning writer Brian Leung reading

Anastasia Clemons/Contributor

On Thursday, March 15, 2012, CSUN faculty and students gathered in a book-lined room within Jerome Richfield to attend a reading by CSUN alum and award-winning writer Brian Leung, author of “Take Me Home”, a historical novel exploring sex and gender intersections, as well as Chinese American identities.

Following the reading, the former CSUN professor answered students’ and professors’ questions alike, during a Q&A session.

In a nod to old-time Saturday television westerns, Leung spoke of his inspiration to call his chapters “episodes”, that he said arose from a desire to cultivate fresh references within the ideal of the western landscape.

“Culturally, our ideas about the West come from film, and not as much from novels,” said Leung. In search of thorough and accurate data for the novel, Leung set out to “put his feet in the dirt” and traveled across Wyoming with his former partner, longtime friend and historian, Tom, collecting bits of history he would need to tell his tale.

According to the the author, the “coolness” of the novel sprang from the “bizarre accounts to crazy to be real”, including a scene involving explosives and a mule’s head.

Leung’s “myth-making” came from his intention to differentiate his story from an actual historical account. “I didn’t want to write a cartoon”, Leung said while acknowledging his biggest challenge was not including certain anecdotes.

Recognizing his most morally-deficient character had become the most developed in the story, Leung found himself striving to elevate the rest of the novel, in order to avoid ennobling the questionable character.

In dealing with the double consciousness of his cultural identity and questioned of the use of dialects in the novel, Leung said that his vision wasn’t to showcase his cultural identity by Introducing some Chinese language. “It felt inauthentic…like a flag.”

When reading for an event such as Thursday’s, Leung says the performance takes over, but that within the text, “the dialect isn’t really on the page.”

While offering a slight change within the sophistication of the spoken English, Leung was conscious to have a fluid and articulate conversation between the Chinese characters, to indicate the ease of conversation between two native speakers.

When identifying where his father’s cultural background showed within the lines of the text, Leung said he called on his father to translate “about twelve things, total” into Cantonese for the novel.

The road to completion of his novel was not an easy one. The initial story line emerged in 2001, and the novel was published in 2010. “Did it take nine years to write? No,” Leung said when asked about the gestational process of the novel. “It took about one and a half years to write, with ninety percent of the book written outside, and a third of it remaining on the floor.”

Leung reminded listeners something he recalled telling himself numerous times. “Write the story…and see if you fail after.
Remember – you are powerful, awfully powerful.”

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