Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258
Homebase is American author Shawn Hsu Wong's 1979 coming-of-age novel about Rainsford Chan, an adolescent Asian American grasping at discovering his own identity.
The book opens with a short expository section that establishes the time and location of its setting before introducing protagonist Rainsford’s dream for his future:
I will eventually travel to all the places I’ve dreamed about. I will meet my friends and know them as if I’d known them all my life.
This quote also establishes the book’s subsequent emphasis on Rainsford’s imaginary interaction with his ancestors, which is told as though in a sequence of dreams. In one of these recollections, Rainsford takes the role of a railroad worker, recounting that
Winter is a season crueler than the men we worked for. All our energies are directed against the winter and to staying alive to greet the first thaw and perhaps the end of the railroad line.
In his imaginary interactions with his forbearers, Rainsford Chan begins to understand the connection he has with each of them despite having never met them.
And I knew then that I was only my father’s son, that he was Grandfather’s son and Grandfather was Great-Grandfather’s son and that night we were all the same man.
At the end of the story, Rainsford reconciles his status as an Asian American by taking possession of the American landscape in which he has grown up:
I take myths to name this country’s canyons, dry riverbeds, mountains, after my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.