Homebase is a novel about fifteen-year-old Rainsford Chan, a fourth-generation Chinese American struggling to establish his identity both as a person and as an American. The central events of his life, and the ones with which the narrative is most concerned, are the deaths of his father (when Rainsford is seven years old) and of his mother (when he is fifteen).
The novel is divided into five chapters, each of which has a generous number of what might be called “speculative flashbacks.” Rainsford never knew his grandfather or great-grandfather, and he knew his father only slightly before his death. These “speculative flashbacks,” which actually make up most of the work, are founded both in reality and in imagination; Rainsford does have some factual information about his grandfather and great-grandfather in the form of letters, documents, and a few family stories and legends that have come down to him. He enlarges upon these to discover and define meaning for his own existence.
Wong begins the novel by giving the basic facts of Rainsford’s present circumstances and family history. The reader learns immediately of several important events in the young narrator’s life: Rainsford is fifteen years old, and both of his parents are dead. The narrator is pursuing the lives of his family members, especially those of his grandfather and great-grandfather. He tells us that he cannot speak Chinese, but he remembers his own father teaching him “Home on the Range,” buying him Superman T-shirts, and taking him to see World War II films. Although his grandfather and great-grandfather are never given names, they become central to the story, and it is through them and through Rainsford’s imagined history of their lives that he comes to terms with his own identity. Much of the opening section is a history, mostly contrived by Rainsford, of...
(The entire section is 765 words.)