Tuesday, August 20, 2013

L. Tam Holland's "The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong"

Lindsay Tam Holland was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and actually convinced someone once that every student there rode dolphins to school. After moving to Northern California and earning an undergraduate degree from Stanford, Holland went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from the University of San Francisco. Along with teaching high school English and creative writing, Holland coaches water polo, avoids tofu, and enjoys writing limericks.

Here Holland dreamcasts an adaptation of The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, her debut novel:
This brings up the interesting question of what my protagonist Vee Crawford-Wong (who is half-Chinese, half-Caucasian) actually looks like. I’ve hinted that he feels more Asian than he looks; his best friend Madison calls him “confused-looking” and “cute in a kind of old-fashioned way.” He’s also sort of big and soft, and very self-critical – and since the story’s told from his perspective, our view of him is really shaped by this. A friend of mine, who’s a fantastic painter, is working on a self-portrait of Vee; he ultimately told me he’s doing something a bit Cubist – drawing all the physical descriptions that Vee mentions and criticizes, and putting them together in an exaggerated mish-mash. I thought this was a great choice, since Vee’s self-consciousness about how he looks is intrinsic to his questions about his ethnicity and identity.

None of this, of course, is helpful for movie-making. To some degree, I think my book would make a good cartoon/graphic novel. But I also think, in realistic movie form, the father-son relationship and the vitality of China could come through in moving ways. I don’t think it’s a cop-out answer to say the best person to play Vee might be an unknown. If you look around at Asian-American actors, they are still so typecast as action heroes (a la Jackie Chan) or sidekicks (a la John Cho). My closest bet would be someone like Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower; We Need To Talk About Kevin), who isn’t Asian at all, but could put on 15 pounds and pull off the geeky, sarcastic-but-sensitive Vee.

Chinese-American actresses might have an even tougher time with being typecast. Vee’s best friend Madison is a nerdy, sarcastic, Chinese girl. Her charm comes from her sharp wit and the fact that she embraces and exaggerates the stereotype she knows she conforms to. For the role of Madison, I see someone like Sandra Oh – except, obviously, Chinese and a teenager.
Learn more about the book and author at L. Tam Holland's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong.

--Marshal Zeringue