Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Paper Son"

S. J. Rozan has won multiple awards for her fiction, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity, the Japanese Maltese Falcon, and the Private Eye Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Rozan was born and raised in the Bronx and now lives in lower Manhattan.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Paper Son, her latest Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mystery, and reported the following:
Such an interesting thing, this Page 69 Challenge. For one thing, the book's page numbers are different from the manuscript's, so when I accepted the Challenge I wasn't even sure where the story was up to by page 69. For another, what are the chances any particular page represents the whole book?

But lo, to my surprise, page 69 of Paper Son does. It's part of a conversation Lydia Chin and Bill Smith have with a young paralegal in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The book's set in the Mississippi Delta, and in this conversation, Lydia is introduced to some of the intricacies of race relations in Mississippi. The conversation includes the phrase, "colored folk of a different color."

Which is the point. Everything in Mississippi is, ultimately, about race; but it's about more than black and white. Growing up in the North, I never knew that. The Delta has been home, for more than a hundred years, to a community of Chinese -- first immigrants, and now, for some generations, Mississippi natives. Plus Eastern European Jews; Italians; Lebanese; and those Native Americans who stayed after most were driven from their land. To WASP Mississippi, all these people were "colored." The complexities created by pushing this logic to its extreme -- and extreme is something Mississippi is particularly good at -- are absurd, though not funny. And that fact is pretty much what Paper Son is about.
Visit S.J. Rozan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue