Dear Friend of Lake Drive Books,
Here’s a guest blog post from Lake Drive Books author R. Scott Okamoto—his helpful response to the Publishers Weekly review of his book, Asian American Apostate: Losing Religion and Finding Myself at an Evangelical University.
If you know me, you know I’m the first person to make fun of myself, and if anyone reads my book, you will see that I brought this self-effacing vibe to the writing of my book. But one thing I cannot control is how a reader assumes my voice to be. I’ve learned in social media and even in person as an English professor that a lot of people don’t think Asian American men can be satirical. So when we are, our words are taken at face value, and we are deemed to be angry, “grating,” or “off-putting.” How about “dark?”
Everyone who has read an advance copy of my book knows at least a little about me, so their responses have been great. They read the book the way I wrote it. It’s funny at times, serious at others, and ultimately a story of hope and inspiration for anyone coming out of the horrors of evangelical faith. But obviously (and hopefully) not everyone who reads my book will know me, so it’s likely some will read it and call it “dark,” “grating,” “caustic” and “off-putting.” I knew this going in, but I didn’t expect two different writers from Publishers Weekly to be those people.
To be fair, both writers had nice things to say about me and the book, and I am thrilled to be twice mentioned in the virtual and printed pages of the trade. It’s cool. Really. But…really?
You can read the review here. Notice how nothing is mentioned about the inspirational stories of former students becoming dear friends, often changing their perspectives to be more inclusive and more caring. No mention of the amazing people who helped me find my identity outside of faith. And the “caustic” example? It was a satirical passage where I walked the campus of APU the morning after the 2008 election, watching people cry, pray, and scream about the “evil” Obama destroying all that is good on this planet. So, I described my thoughts as I walked around saying, “fuck you” in my head to everyone I saw. The reviewer even quoted that part. No context. No explanation. Just me walking around saying “fuck you” to everyone I saw. Caustic? Grating? Perhaps. It was funny to me. I hope it’s funny to you.
But here’s the deal. I’ve been around long enough to know that the reviewer doesn’t see me as a humorous, even whimsical soul. That story just confirmed the writer’s assumptions about me. I’m just an angry Asian man with an axe to grind against White evangelical culture. The proof? He/I wrote “fuck” like 17 times on a single page. That guy is out of his mind. So grating.
In my book, I tell a story of being sent by my department to meet with the head librarian to discuss rethinking the library’s relationship with the English department. I was picked specifically because I have an easy-going personality. And yet, the head librarian found me to be “rude” and “out of control” because I didn’t happily agree with her view that the library was doing everything perfectly. It didn’t matter that I smiled, I complimented, and I asked questions. I was “rude.” Because the White woman wanted me to just agree with her.
The book is now out. I have amazing endorsers and already some great reviews on Goodreads. I’ve been on 7 podcasts and a Youtube show just this week. Everyone who has read or listened to the book has enjoyed it. They have understood when I was being satirical or humorous.
And yes, I’m aware that some might find this…”caustic,” or “grating.” I am complaining, after all. I do complain sometimes. I critique. I argue. But I do so for the sake of humanity, both mine and yours. I don’t think I’m the writer or person in the Publishers Weekly review.
You can hear me on these podcasts coming soon or out now:
The Harmonic Atheist Youtube show out now!
And more to come. I’m not asking everyone to love my book. I just want to be seen and heard for who I am. If you’ve signed up to read this, I know you all already see and hear me. I’m just being caustic and off-putting in this post. The next one will be better. No fucks will be written…or given for that matter.
You can order the book on Amazon and other online outlets. I can’t express with any less caustic-ness in any less grating manner that I’m so thrilled to be starting out as an author, and I’m grateful to share this all with you.
This post originally appeared on rscottokamoto.substack.com.
Scott Okamoto is a writer, musician, podcaster, and storyteller. He’s spent much of his professional career teaching English at a Christian college, witnessing the experience of marginalized people there, which he relays in his podcast Chapel Probation. His Asian American Apostate: Losing Religion and Finding Myself at an Evangelical University tells his unlikely spiritual journey, bringing together an evangelical past, an Asian American experience, with a contemporary world of Christian evangelicalism. He lives in Southern California with his wife and three kids.