Set in the Chinatown of Concepcion, California, in the early 1970’s, Sea Glass is the story of a second-generation Chinese American boy who is struggling to find his identity as a Chinese, as an American, and—most important—as a person. Pressing against young and overweight Craig Chin are two seemingly overwhelming problems: His father expects him to excel in sports in order to achieve acceptance as an American, and, when the novel opens, Craig is undergoing troubles as the new boy at school. His family has just moved to Concepcion from San Francisco.
The novel is organized into ten chapters of approximately equal length and importance. Each is divided into shorter subchapters to give the work something of an episodic effect and substance. The work has only one narrator, young Craig Chin himself; thus the point of view is entirely that of the adolescent boy as he struggles with his problems and new surroundings. The setting of the novel, in its entirety, is Concepcion, California.
The book opens with Craig trying unsuccessfully to play football with some new acquaintances upon his arrival in the new town. Craig’s father stands on the sidelines to shout instructions to Craig and the other players. Because Calvin Craig had been successful in high school as an athlete, he believes his son can achieve acceptance in American society only by becoming a sports hero at school. Craig is fat and uninterested in football or any other such activity; however, he cannot make his father accept these facts.
In the next chapter, Craig’s father has changed the game from football to basketball, where the same pattern occurs again. Craig cannot play basketball well, no matter how hard he tries; he succeeds only at humiliating himself and his father, who relentlessly claims that enough practice and hard work will make Craig a star player. He claims this even when it is clear to everyone that it cannot...
(The entire section is 792 words.)