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Eat Everything Before You Dieby Jeffery Paul Chan
Synopses & Reviews
In this vibrant and original novel, Christopher Columbus Wong, orphan son of a Chinatown bachelor community, is trying to invent a family for himself while all around him American popular culture is reinventing itself with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Christopher finds himself on a wild journey with his gay older brother, Peter, a pan-Pacific TV chef; the defrocked, deranged, and eroding ex-director of a Chinatown settlement house, Reverend Ted Candlewick; the sharp-eyed, conspiring matriarch Auntie Mary, the bridge between the conflicting values that make up this cultural stew; and Uncle Lincoln, a bachelor, short order cook, and, quite possibly, Christopher and Peter's father. Further complicating Christopher's voyage are his ex-wives: Winnie, a Hong Kong immigrant looking for a green card, and Melba, an American orphan of the counterculture.
Set against the backdrop of America's wars in Asia and the assimilation of that experience--the refugees, the stereotypes, the food--Eat Everything Before You Die is an ironic commentary on the identities the children of Chinese American immigrants concoct from their questionable histories, cultural practices, and survival strategies.
Chan's riotous story will appeal to general readers, particularly those interested in the Asian American experience, and will be of strong, enduring interest to students and scholars in Asian American Studies.
Jeffery Paul Chan is professor of Asian American Studies and of English at San Francisco State University. He co-edited Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American Writers and The Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature.
"Jeffery Chan's story is humorous, satirical, and at times hilarious. . . but with an understated seriousness that articulates a unique Chinese American sensibility." - Marlon K. Hom, Professor and Chair, Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University
"Eat Everything Before You Die is informed by Chan's extensive knowledge of Asian American literature. The novel references and pays homage to several pioneering works - most significantly to Louis Chu's Eat a Bowl of Tea. . . . While Eat a Bowl of Tea concerned itself with the bachelor society in New York City's Chinatown and Chinese American history, Eat Everything Before You Die works with issues of pop culture, stereotypes, race, identity, and the family society." - Shawn Wong, author of Homebase and American Knees
"A professor of Asian-American studies weaves a knotty, dynamic tale of Christopher Columbus Wong, a grown orphan, and his quest to uncover his origins and process his life experiences: growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1950s, going to university during the Vietnam War, eloping with a Chinese immigrant seeking a green card and then taking up with a passionate hippie. Colorful characters float in a whirlwind of American counterculture. There's dying Uncle Lincoln, who might be Wong's father; Peter, his gay older brother with 'a quick mouth ready to deal in two languages'; the inimitable Auntie Mary, known to kill pigeons from her balcony with 'slingshot frozen peas'; and Wong's father-figure, Reverend Candlewick, who was defrocked for pedophilia. Wong describes Wick as a 'messiah... who could alchemize race, culture, politics, sex, and rock 'n' roll' — a feat that is quite possibly the ambition of this very ambitious novel. But the non-linear and muddled narrative obfuscates the plot, even as it makes sense coming from a narrator so lost. Chan writes with sumptuous eloquence about food, and the moments in which boundaries between sibling, lover, mother and father shift and break down are deeply moving. This is a bumpy but vigorous read. FYI: Chan co-edited two anthologies of Asian-American writers, Aiiieeeee! and The Big Aiieeeee!" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Orphan Christopher Columbus Wong invents a family for himself against a backdrop of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, in this novel by a founding figure in Asian American studies.
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