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Book Shelf Art B o o k   R e v i e w
Novels by Asian-American Writers

by Betty Wang, County of San Diego Reference Librarian
 
The Joy Luck Club Bookcover The Kitchen God's WifeIn the wake of the highly acclaimed and best-selling performances of Amy Tanís two novels, The Joy Luck Club (1989) and The Kitchen Godís Wife (1991), a new crop of Chinese-American fiction writers has emerged into the literary scene. Here is a sample of some of the works that have appeared recently. They are available at your local library.
 
China Boy Bookcover China Boy by Gus Lee is a story about a young boyís growing up and coming of age in the tough Panhandle district of San Francisco in the 1950s. Seven-year-old Kai Tang not only finds himself to be the punching bag of every bully in the culturally mixed neighborhood, but also has to endure the physical and psychological abuse of his stepmother who has no sympathy for Chinese culture and is determined to erase all traces of his Chinese mother from the house. Kai Ting takes refuge in the YMCA where he learns to be a disciplined fighter and stands up to his tormenters.
Typical American Bookcover
Typical American marks the debut of Gish Jen, another young woman writer whose work undoubtedly will be compared to Amy Tanís Joy Luck Club since both novels are about contemporary immigrant experiences. Jenís novel is a darkly humorous account of the rise and sway of fortune in the life of a young immigrant family. Ralph Chang comes to America in the 1940s to study electrical engineering. Stranded in New York by Maoís revolution, Ralph has a hard time coping until his resourceful older sister, Theresa, locates him and marries him off to her friend, Helen. The three of them form a new world family and jokingly dub themselves "Chang-kee" (Chinese Yankee).
Open Book ArtRalph gets his doctorate, becomes a professor, and moves the family to the suburbs. Their seemingly prosperous life falls apart when Ralph gets involved with the smooth-talking millionaire con-man, Grover Ding. Ralph becomes obsessed with money, gives up teaching to become the owner of a fried chicken palace, only to find that his "idol" has seduced his wife and brings the family to the verge of financial ruin.
Women of the Silk Bookcover
 
Women of the Silk is the first novel of Gail Tsukinama, a Californian of Chinese-Japanese heritage. This heartwarming, fast-moving story takes place in pre-World War II China. Eight-year-old Pei, like many from impoverished families of her village, is sent away to work in the silk factory. In time her sense of abandonment is softened by the sisterhood and love she feels towards the other girls in the factory. Against a backdrop of changing China, Pei and her friends grow into womanhood. Striding together they are able to gain economic independence and take control of their own lives.
Donald Duk Bookcover
Frank Chinís (author of the play, The Year of the Dragon) Donald Duk is a witty and wacky tale about a young boyís coming to terms with his Chinese heritage. For 12-year-old Donald Duk, Chinese New Year celebration in San Franciscoís Chinatown is another drag. Young Duk, who hates his comical name, spits on everything Chinese. He would rather be Fred Astaire than the son of a wealthy restaurateur. Over the festive days, the help of his remarkable (and non-stereotypical) family and the alluring dreams of the historic completion of the Central Pacific Railroad by the Chinese workers in 1869, draw him to a new sense of identity and racial pride.
Out-of-Print Book Art Pangs of Love is a debut collection of 11 stories by David Wong Louie. The universal themes of these stories are alienation, human suffering, compassion, healing, and forgiveness. The title story is a powerful portrait of a family alienated by cultural and generational differences. Mrs. Pang, who speaks no English after 40 years in America, nonetheless is an ardent fan of the Johnny Carson show. Her son, who from an early age opted for an ĎAmericaní life, finds it hard to communicate with his mother in his almost childish Cantonese.
 
For more information or additional listings, please call Betty Wang at the San Diego County Library at 619-579-4454.
In addition, the books above and other titles by the authors mentioned are available to purchase. Select the title of your choice.
Picture of Books China Boy — by Gus Lee

Typical American — by Gish Jen

Mona in the Promised Land — by Gish Jen

Women of the Silk — by Gail Tsukiyama

Donald Duk — by Frank Chin

Pangs of Love:   Stories — by David Wong Louie
Out-of-Print, but not impossible to get.

The Joy Luck Club — by Amy Tan

The Kitchen God's Wife — by Amy Tan

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