WSU literature instructor Alex Kuo travels far afield with 'White Jade'Alex Kuo
They also serve. Writers of literature may get most of the attention, but teachers of literature also make a crucial difference in the life of the printed word.
Alex Kuo has devoted 45 years to teaching literature and writing at the college level, with the past 30 of those years at Washington State University in Pullman. The respected professor has inspired scores of students over those years, including some who have gone into writing. None is more famous than Sherman Alexie of Seattle, winner of a National Book Award last year.
"I first fell in love with American literature," Alexie has written, "through the poems and stories of Alex Kuo."
Kuo has eight books to his credit, in addition to all the time and energy he has poured into a teaching career that has included stints in China. His latest collection is "White Jade and Other Stories" (Wordcraft of Oregon, 184 pages, $13.95).
Kuo's imaginative work again covers much territory -- literally and figuratively.
"Most of the stories in this collection," he said recently, "are based on actual events, starting with the 2000 fictionalized account of the espionage charges against Wen Ho Lee and going to the murder charges against the deer hunter Chai Vang to the San Francisco grandmother who lost all her savings to the Spanish lottery.
"The novella 'White Jade,' explores the trans-Pacific diaspora story going both directions. Why do I do it this way? Because I believe that, in many stories, fiction can get at the truth better."
Alex Kuo discusses "White Jade" at 7:30 p.m. Monday at The Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St.; 206-624-6600
-- John Marshall