Nor was I seeing any treatment of the very, very subtle ways that race, gender, class and politics complicate that.
CNN: The interwoven themes of identity come up often in the novel: the protagonist, Ingrid, is a child of Chinese immigrants, who hits a glass ceiling, and a racial incident at a company outing is a major plot point. Why was this an important theme for the plot?
Wan: It had been a little bit frustrating to me that there had been a large number of novels being published -- particularly with Asian-American women -- that always seemed to feature some sort of soul searching trip to Asia, (or) something centered around family.
Of course, the character back story is central to every novel, but I was not seeing any contemporary fiction being written about Asian-American characters -- male or female -- that seemed to take the story to another place.
What I tried to do -- not sure if I did it successfully -- was inject some of that character back story, just to understand where Ingrid's parents had immigrated from and what kind of class and societal standing context (to understand where) she came from.
But just enough and then just leave it at that, and have the workplace experience speak for itself.
CNN: What do you hope readers gain from reading the book?
Wan: I would consider it to have been worthwhile writing this book if it helps some young people -- and particularly Asian-Americans -- navigate that process of learning a corporate culture while still remaining authentic to oneself.