Jessica Hills Photography
Tess Gerritsen is a best-selling romance and mystery writer. She is of Chinese descent. Her recent novel features an Asian American character for the first time:
In terms of salability before, people weren’t that interested in it. Out of the U.S. population, Asian-Americans are not that big a group of readers. But this was a way I can easily weave an Asian-American character in the Rizzoli and Isles universe, and I can put in an Asian-American point of view through Johnny Tam.
Gerritsen also talks about what it is like to be an Asian American writer:
Q: Because of your high profile, have you been asked why you haven’t written about Asians before?
A: I have gotten that a lot from the Asian-American community. They question my judgment about marketability, but it’s just the way it worked out. I felt this was the story I wanted to tell. My mother’s health is fading, and I wanted to write a story of some of the folktales she told me growing up. She had the most amazing tales about how she grew up in China: The magic, the ghosts, the supernatural. (Laughs) Of course, where my mom saw ghosts, I reacted by becoming a logical science person.
Q: Do you feel this great responsibility as a public Asian-American?
A: I think every Asian-American feels that way. When an Asian-American goes crazy and kills somebody, we all feel collective guilt and shame. But there’s also collective pride. When an Asian-American scientist wins the Nobel Prize, it’s like, “Hey! That’s one for our team!” I think it’s collective because we’re such a small minority.