Sunday, November 22, 2009
I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir
Forced to leave war-torn Vietnam, four-year-old Lac Su and his family flee Danang traveling aboard a sixty-foot boat packed with over 300 people. After several weeks of drifting across the violent South China Sea, landing in Hong Kong and getting shuffled between tent cities, the family immigrates to the United States and settles in a drug-ridden neighborhood in Hollywood, California. Home is not the heaven Lac and his family imagine. Rather, their new world is marked by the "mayhem and commotion" of police helicopters shining their floodlights across rooftops ("crackhead and junkie haven[s]"), Los Angeles' booming traffic (a "tangled, teeming mess") and uneasy underworld encounters with drug dealers, prostitutes and gangsters. In his provocative debut, Su boldly writes about the trials of his youth, chronicling the loneliness of life in America, the challenges of growing up with a demanding father (a "firecracker with a testy fuse") and his intriguing, yet dangerous liaisons with street gangs. Su tells a frank story of tough love, expressing a deep human need for acceptance while exploring the universality of family life.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen
Marilyn Chin spins together forty-one tales into this wild, fiercely inventive novel about Moonie and Mei Ling Wong, a pair of Chinese-American twin sisters growing up under the watchful eye of "the Great Matriarch," their cleaver-wielding grandmother. The books begins with a fearless Moon taking revenge on a group of "trashy white boys" who have humiliated her. Moon's retaliation is sardonically described: "For thirty days and thirty nights [she] scoured the seaside howling, windswept--in search of blond victims. They would drown on their surfboards, or collapse while polishing their cars." Subsequent sections of the book follow the sisters' transformation from Chinese food delivery girls ("certain Wong-named-nobodies") to two overtly ambitious young women ("I'm attending Stanford and Mei Ling's at Harvard, both of us on pre-med scholarships and on our way to becoming important doctors"). Throughout the novel, Chin playfully sprinkles her tales with Chinese myths, parables, Taoist thought and Confucian beliefs, while presenting a terrifically diverse cast of characters including a young monk, donkey, ex-San Diego Charger, eight-armed bodhisattva, surfer and cook. The chorus of first- and second-generation Chinese immigrants is especially rich. Their voices are full of yearning, hope, rage, passion and pain.