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H. T. Tsiang

Poet, playwright, and novelist. Hsi Tseng Tsiang (H. T. Tsiang) was born in China in 1899 and came to America as a young man. He was involved with the Greenwich Village literary scene in the 1920s and 1930s, and self-published a number of books which he would hawk at downtown political meetings. Tsiang also appeared as an actor in Hollywood, most notably in the film Tokyo Rose. He died in 1971 in Los Angeles, CA.

books
Print

The Hanging on Union Square

Kaya Press 2013

H.T. Tsiang’s satiric, quasi-experimental novel The Hanging on Union Square explores leftist politics in Depression-era New York – an era of union busting and food lines – in an ambitious style that combines humor-laced allegory with snatches of poetry, newspaper quotations, non sequiturs, and slogans. Back in print for the first time since it was originally self-published in 1935, Kaya’s new edition of the novel follows out-of-work protagonist Mr. Nut from a workers’ cafeteria to dinner clubs and sexual exploitation in the highest echelons of society, then back again to the streets of Greenwich Village, where starving families rub shoulders with the recently evicted. In the process, Tsiang captures, hour-by-hour, Mr. Nut’s profound transformation from itinerant roustabout to radical activist. Adventurous and unclassifiable in its combination of avant-garde and proletarian concerns, The Hanging on Union Square is a major rediscovery of a uniquely American voice.

 
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And China Has Hands

Kaya Press Nov. 16, 2016

Originally published in 1937, And China Has Hands, the final published novel of literary gadfly and political radical H.T. Tsiang (author of The Hanging on Union Square), takes place in a 1930s New York defined as much by chance encounters as by economic inequalities and corruption.

Written with a poignant simplicity that mirrors Wong’s own alienation in a foreign land, Tsiang shows us the world of 1930s New York through the eyes of Wan-Lee Wong, a newly arrived, nearly penniless, Chinese immigrant everyman who falls in love with Pearl Chang, a biracial Chinese and African American woman who wanders into his life. This unusually intimate portrait of coming to race and class consciousness, told with the pointed, political brevity of early Gertrude Stein and set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, illuminates the challenges endured by generations of Chinese who tried to assimilate into an alien culture, pining in utter obscurity for their homeland.

 
praise

“This is a voice to which the White world … will have to listen more and more as time passes. I do not mean to this particular young Chinese Poet, but to the movement which he voices.”

Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”

“I finished H.T. Tsiang’s masterpiece a few hours ago and I’m still not sure where I am and what day this is. My mind has been picked apart and reassembled. I need a drink.”

Gary Shteyngart, “Super Sad True Love Story”

“I became fascinated with the Chinese-American writer H.T. Tsiang when I found a first edition of The Hanging on Union Square. It felt like slipping into another person’s hallucination.”

— Hua Hsu, “A Floating Chinaman” (forthcoming)

And China Has Hands is wondrous enough as a historical artifact, the first-ever novel of Chinatown strivers published by a Chinese American author. But as you turn its spare, deceptively strange pages, it reveals itself as something more, a shadow tale pitting the unheralded, visionary Tsiang in a one-man war against convention, the melting pot and an inhospitable publishing world. That Tsiang remains a long-forgotten and singular oddball speaks to our lack of imagination, not his.

Hua Hsu, author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific (Harvard University Press)

In And China Has Hands, H.T. Hsiang reminds us all that the words ‘migrant’ and ‘migration’ are not just the topical buzzwords of our 21st century 24-hour news cycle—they represent the real lives of immigrants living under legal ‘walls’ that create a second class citizenship and prevent full participation in the mainstream of American life. This is a love story between a man and a woman and a man and a country that is full of pain, and hope, and failure, and dreams, and loss, and pride, and patriotism.

Shawn Wong, author of American Knees

H.T. Tsiang’s refreshingly unconventional And China Has Hands brings fresh oxygen to the subject of the multi-ethnic dimensions of 1930s radical literature. Something magical ensues from the beguiling aura of this cross-genre writer who moves among a myriad of styles with magnificent fluidity.

Alan M. Wald, author of American Night: The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War

Vivid and succinct, Tsiang’s groundbreaking novel depicts the coming-to-consciousness of a Chinese laundry owner who seeks economic security and the love of a biracial heroine. With its unique voice, its critique of racial inequality and capitalism, and its clarion call to class struggle, And China Has Hands is a worthy American rejoinder to Lao She’s classic proletarian novel of 1937, Rickshaw (Lo-t’o Hsiang Tzu). Floyd Cheung’s smart, elegant afterword provides a terrific critical and historical introduction.

Patricia P. Chu, Associate Professor of English, George Washington University

H. T. Tsiang news

Official Release of And China Has Hands!

All of us here at Kaya are ecstatic to announce the official publication of our reprinting of H.T. Tsiang’s 1937 novel And China Has Hands! We’ve been so excited about this book. On 10/19, we celebrated the life and work of H.T. Tsiang at our USC event, Radical Failure as Revolutionary Agitprop. There, we heard from Floyd Cheung, the scholar and […]

Revolutionary Oddball: A Celebration of Writer H. T. Tsiang

On Thursday, October 20th, we will be celebrating And China Has Hands, a novel by political activist, life-long eccentric, and agitprop author H.T. Tsiang. Tsiang’s mostly self-published experimental novels and poetry, published in the 1920s and 1930s, are a testament to his singular unwillingness to compromise his vision or his politics in order to fit within the […]

Radical Failure as Revolutionary Agitprop: Celebrating the Life & Work of H.T. Tsiang

We over here at Kaya Press are more than proud to host a reading and discussion of H.T. Tsiang and his writings by New Yorker contributing writer Hua Hsu, whose recently published A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific (Harvard University Press), explores Tsiang’s life in detail. Joining him will be Floyd Cheung, the scholar and writer who […]

H.T. Tsiang: Don’t Call It A Comeback

Our very own Kaya Press board member (and recent Pulitzer Prize winner), Viet Thanh Nguyen, recently penned a piece for the New Yorker called Reconsidering the Work of a Chinese Immigrant. Our main man Nguyen reviewed a book by Hua Hsu entitled A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific that acts a biography […]

 
 
 

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