Author Tom Lin’s Conversation With PDS Students

Adya Jha, Online Features Editor

On the afternoon of April 27th, PDS Sophomores and Juniors gathered in the Middle School Amphitheater to speak with acclaimed author Tom Lin. Lin’s debut novel, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, was selected as one of the various books 10th graders and juniors in the American West English elective would read and analyze during the spring months. Although Lin met with students virtually, his presence extended far beyond the confines of a DTEN screen. Through both extensive readings of his novel and an engaging question & answer session with students, Lin deepened students’ understanding of the already lively characters of Ming Tsu, bringing them off the page and into the halls of Princeton Day School.

Lin’s novel, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, is one stained red with blood. In search of revenge for the love stolen from him, the protagonist and namesake of the novel, Ming, embarks on a murderous path through the heart of the American West. However, all is not what it seems—as the reader frantically turns the pages to find what’s in store for their (anti) hero, the lines between fantasy and reality blur. In a twist entirely new to the Western, Lin incorporates magical elements into his narrative, providing further depth to his growing cast of characters. Furthermore, Ming is not your typical Western protagonist —as a Chinese American orphaned at birth and raised by a criminal, his story is, as sophomore Isabell Hu shares, “a refreshing change in a genre dominated by white people.” At turns romantic, violent, and heart-wrenching, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu explores themes such as morality and race through the lens of a man on a mission of vengeance. The man behind the incredible tale, Tom Lin, who is currently a Ph.D. student in English at the University of California, Davis, added even further depth to the tale during the time he spent speaking to PDS students.

We can give much of the credit for the inspiration and coordination of the event to English teacher Ms. Manners, who, as she said, “took a shot in the dark and contacted him through his author website, explaining how excited the sophomores were to read something that felt so different and new.” Because of her weeks of tireless work, many PDS students received the unique opportunity to speak to the author of a book they had explored in depth. Sophomore Mark Yang shares that “[Lin] really expanded on the ideas and questions asked by the students.” Students asked him various questions on a variety of topics, including the ways race is perceived in the story, the morality of Ming’s actions, and who he might cast in a future television adaptation of the book (though he wasn’t able to definitively decide on which actors might be the best fit). As Ms. Manners says, Ming Tsu “was a story that was not only a Western but was giving voice to people who had traditionally been erased from that type of narrative, and on top of that, it had all of these exciting elements, like magical realism and Tarantino-esque violence, paired with beautiful, philosophical ideas about geography, time, and memory.” By meeting with Lin, PDS students were not only able to meet the author of a work they had studied so intensively but were also able to catch a glimpse into the inner workings of a story as intricate and expansive as The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu.