Peter Desberg

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Peter Desberg

How this book came to be…

I was playing a lot of tennis and everything was great until I signed up for a Tae Kwon Do class. That’s when I discovered that tennis shortens your hamstrings explaining why I had such lousy stretch. Sadly, Tae Kwon Do is all about high kicks. I spent a year in agonizing yoga classes before I could kick someone my size in the head. I had a long list of people whose heads needed kicking.

A girl joined our class and on the first day I was prepared to snicker as she went through the agony of stretching like all beginning students do. Without warming up, she bent down and did the splits. I talked to her after class. She’d been studying ballet since the age of four.

When I joked about a group of people in tights jumping around she grabbed me by the black belt and dragged me to a ballet and said… “see?” I was stunned. I had a massive case of stretch envy, but more importantly, I noticed that a lot of their balletic movements were similar to the kicks and spins I was clumsily trying to learn in my martial arts classes. I got the idea that I wanted to write a musical that combined martial arts and ballet. I dropped the musical part and began casting about for a story and this novel emerged.

I discovered that thousands and thousands of Chinese men were brought here as laborers and were treated horrifically. I do well when motivated by guilt. Having spent most of my life as a university professor, I like to do research, and what I discovered shocked and embarrassed me. In addition to being a professor, I also moonlight as a Clinical Psychologist. This helps me understand the guilt I feel reading about how badly we treated the many thousands of Chinese workers left here after we no longer needed them as cheap labor.

This is the 24th book I’ve had published. Although I enjoyed writing them all, I’ve never felt the sense of purpose I experienced with this one. As a research psychologist, I’ve learned that people remember information in stories better than from lectures with a lot of facts…to this end I wove a story around this shameful period of our history to have greater impact. If it works, you’ll enjoy the story and share in the feeling that a substantial wrong was, and in too many cases, is still being done.

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