Crassroom Voices : Main Characters

Image of Liao
Liao: A Chinese-American working part time at a community college near San Francisco. For the last five years he has been teaching Chinese and computer programming at two schools in the Bay area. Although he could draw better pay by working for a software company, Liao values contact with people and “educating the next generation.” As the eldest son in a family that is still traditional in many ways, Liao is also trying to take care of his aging parents. His parents see it differently: they are trying to take care of him. In particular, they want to arrange a good marriage partner for Liao. Somehow, he is just not interested in romantic pursuits. Or perhaps he is interested, but afraid of the responsibilities usually entailed. To supplement Liao’s modest teaching income, he designs smartphone apps. At this point, that generates more money that his teaching jobs. "If you are teaching for the money,” he said, “you are teaching for the wrong reason.”
Image of Tim
Tim: A retired literature professor, small vegetable farmer, and wordsmith. He is a close friend of Liao and now divides his day between raising organic vegetables, chatting on Skype, reading best-sellers, and creating arcane verse that nobody reads. After attending third rate colleges in Germany and the USA, the love of scholarship gradually grew on Tim and somehow become a lecturer and then eventually professor at a Christian university, which is ironic since he is not particularly religious. What is even more odd is that his political beliefs differ markedly from most of his “born again” former colleagues. At times a bit too pedantic and stiff, Tim’s only redeeming grace is that he can surprise others with acts of kindness that are almost ingénue.
Image of Melissa
Melissa: An aspiring politician and vocal member of a PTA chapter in an upscale neighbour in Woodside. With German and Japanese ancestry, she studied in Tokyo for ten years before moving to California because “that’s where creative things are happening.” She herself is unsure whether she is “Asian” or “Western”, just as she is uncertain whether she is “straight” or “bi.” At times quirky because of her ADHD, now and then she is also insightful. Some people consider her to be too plastic. She prefers to see herself as just what consumers are looking for – a spontaneous person unafraid of contradictions. Never a brilliant scholar, after her daughter was born, Melissa’a attitudes towards education have changed and she has became increasingly interested in education.
Image of Satoru
Satoru: A recent university drop out now educating his kids at home. Usually good-natured and kind, at times he launches into pedantic tirades. Satoru often talks about the importance of “educating for tolerance and world peace” but in intrigued by ninja fighters and the martial arts. He also believes in the importance of becoming Net savvy, while worrying about the invasion of privacy that technology has enhanced. And though he makes sure his kids get plenty of exercise, he himself is a bit of a couch potato whose favourite yoga posture is “the twinkie dog.” His wife works at an elementary school library, and worries that most kids do not read extensively. At this point in time, his wife – who is also a good friend of Liao’s – does most of the serious thinking. Satoru is an intellectual left-fielder who usually catches the ball, but does not always throw it back smoothly.