Asian America Now: Shawna Yang Ryan, Water Ghosts
Water Ghosts is set in the wake of the Immigration Act of 1924, legislation that barred many Chinese women from joining husbands who had immigrated to America in search of work. The absence of women defines life in Locke, California, a community of bachelors where men outnumber women twenty to one and most of the women are white prostitutes. For this reason, when a boat bearing three mysterious and bedraggled Chinese women arrives one day out of the fog of the Sacramento Delta, suspicion and rumor spread rapidly among the townspeople of Locke. The women's appearance is particularly baffling for Richard Fong, the manager of the Lucky Fortune gambling parlor; one of them is Ming Wai, the wife he abandoned in China years earlier.
When a flood threatens to wash away the entire town, the frightening power of the strange women will be revealed. In Water Ghosts, Shawna Yang Ryan tells a story of a marriage broken by separation and betrayal, a town brought to its knees by loneliness and longing, and what happens when a Chinese ghost story begins to come true.
Shawna Yang Ryan was born in Sacramento, California, the child of parents who met during the Vietnam War when her father was stationed in Taiwan. Ryan graduated from UC Berkeley, and received an M.A. from UC Davis. In 2002, she was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan. Water Ghosts was a finalist for the 2008 Northern California Book Award.
Co-sponsored by Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, Books Inc., and the Chinese Historical Society.