Synopses & Reviews
An award-winning writer takes a groundbreaking look at the experience and psyche of the Asian American male. Alex Tizon landed in an America that saw Asian women as sexy and Asian men as sexless. Immigrating from the Philippines as a young boy, everything he saw and heard taught him to be ashamed of his face, his skin color, his height. His fierce and funny observations of sex and the Asian American male include his own quest for love during college in the 1980s, a tortured tutorial on stereotypes that still make it hard for Asian men to get the girl. Tizon writes: "I had to educate myself on my own worth. It was a sloppy, piecemeal education, but I had to do it because no one else was going to do it for me." And then, a transformation. First, Tizons growing understanding that shame is universal: that his own just happened to be about race. Next, seismic cultural changes - from Jerry Yangs phenomenal success with Yahoo! Inc., to actor Ken Watanabes emergence in Hollywood blockbusters, to Jeremy Lins meteoric NBA rise. Finally, Tizons deeply original, taboo-bending investigation turns outward, tracking the unheard stories of young Asian men today, in a landscape still complex but much changed for the Asian American man.
[Starred review] Yoo (Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before) is a gifted YA novelist and comic writer who, by his own recollection, has spent his entire life purposefully underachieving in important moments. From struggles with popularity in kindergarten, to the delicate social battles of high school, to the development of his writing career, Yoo has repeatedly self-sabotaged while on the cusp of potential success. But just as readers are ready to dismiss him as a perennial screw-up, he deftly brings his experiences back to the rawness of his family struggles and he articulates that rarest of memoir experiences: a truly poignant, unexpected epiphany. Yoo shares his stories with candor, and the range of topics-sexuality, work, sibling rivalry, body image issues, and ethnic identity-means readers will never get bored. The essays are well-paced, the delivery is always punchy, and Yoo makes for a sympathetic protagonist. Though at times the themes feel repetitive, it is really more that (like all things in life) his issues overlap. In exorcising these demons, Yoo has crafted a fantastic memoir that will have readers laughing throughout.--Publisher's Weekly
"THE CHOKE ARTIST is brilliantly sneaky. David Yoo is so funny that sometimes you forget he's writing about his (and America's) deepest, most basic fears. In a country that worships success, failure is taboo. Yoo embraces it head-on, his humor leavening yet never concealing the pain of not having enough faith in oneself."--Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone and The Odds
I loved this book and couldn't put it down! It's raw, startling, laugh-out-loud funny-and ultimately about the irrepressible human spirit.--Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
"An admitted rug-humping, shrimpy, underachieving choke artist, David Yoo confesses his deepest darkest, hilariously unattractive and sadly relatable truths. And in turn, sets us all free."--Hilary Winston, author of My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me and writer for Community and Happy Endings
"Reading THE CHOKE ARTIST is like watching someone get kicked in the nuts-in a good way. Yoo makes us laugh and wince and relive the horrific, hilarious agony of being young."--Annie Choi, author of Happy Birthday or Whatever
Yoo, author of two successful young-adult novels, now proves himself adept, as well, at the autobiographical essay, as this collection of 10 such pieces amply demonstrates. Set mainly during his college years at Skidmore and the 20 years that follow, the essays offer a self-image as a diffident, self-deprecating, well, choke artist, who is positively gifted at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Yoo is what he wryly calls "that rarity, the underachieving Asian-American" (he's Korean). This manifests itself in various ways: getting bad grades in school, choosing to lose at tennis while appearing to be trying to win, being the last to learn the truth about his preternaturally cheerful college roommate, etc. The book takes on a poignant air when he writes about his failed relationship with his father and concludes with the most interesting essay in the book, about the frustrations of trying to become a writer while working-almost permanently-as a temp! Sometimes a bit slow, this crossover title nevertheless succeeds in its portrait of the author as a young (choke) artist.
"In Big Little Man Alex Tizon fearlessly penetrates the core of not just what it means to be male and Asian in America, but what it means to be human anywhere."-Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild "Part candid memoir, part incisive cultural study, Big Little Man addresses - and explodes - the stereotypes of Asian manhood. Alex Tizon writes with acumen and courage, and the result is a book at once illuminating and, yes, liberating." -Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl "A well-paced, engaging combo of history, memoir, and social analysis. . . Tizons skill as a feature reporter serves the book well, producing a narrative that moves fluidly between subjects, settings, and gazes." -- Publishers Weekly “A deft, illuminating memoir and cultural history.” -- Kirkus Reviews "Written compellingly....eye-opening... deeply felt, extensively researched." -- Booklist "Tizons candid journey into the shifting and multiplying definitions of manliness and the masculine ideal is revelatory and sobering."-- Library Journal “Highly readable . . . This personal narrative of self-education and growth will engage any reader captivated by the sources of American, and Asian-American, manhood — its multitude of inheritances and prospects.” - Minneapolis Star Tribune “At once a ruthlessly honest personal story and a devastating critique of contemporary American culture . . . What makes [Tizons] writing compelling is his ability to investigate and explain complex topics, deftly weaving in information from websites, history texts, university research and social media, combined with intense self-examination. His willingness to look inward gives him more authority to unpack some of the damaging misperceptions about Asian men.” -- Seattle Times
Missing that last basket in a pick-up game. Chickening out on that perfect first kiss at the last second. Seizing up, again and again, under pressure. The life of a choke artist isn't an easy one, and the mere possibility of disappointment is enough to keep plenty of people from really trying in the first place. David Yoo perfectly captures this cycle of failure and fear in this collection of often cringe-inducing episodes: whether he's wearing four layers of clothing to artificially beef up his slim frame, Spider Solitaire-ing his way through fifty temp jobs, or pining for validation through dating unattainable women, Yoo celebrates and skewers the insecurities of young adults everywhere.
In this brutally honest collection of often cringe-inducing episodes, David Yoo perfectly captures the cycle of failure and fear from childhood through adulthood. Whether he's wearing four layers of clothing to artificially beef up his slim frame, routinely testing highlighters against his forearm to see if he indeed has yellow skin, or preemptively sabotaging promising relationships to avoid being compared to former boyfriends, Yoo celebrates and skewers the insecurities of anxious people everywhere.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist's memoir, in the spirit of Richard Rodriquezs Hunger for Memory
and Nathan McCalls Makes Me Wanna Holler
—an intimate look at the mythology, experience, and psyche of the Asian American male
About the Author
Alex Tizon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is former Seattle bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and longtime staff writer for the Seattle Times. He co-produced a 60 Minutes segment on Third World mail-order brides in Asia, and currently teaches at the University of Oregon. Big Little Man was the winner of the prestigious Work in Progress Prize from the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project. Tizon's website is alextizon.com.
Table of Contents
Killing Magellan 1
Land of the Giants 23
Seeking Hot Asian Babes 63
Babes, Continued 81
Asian Boy 93
Tiny Men on the Big Screen 111
Its Color Was Its Size 129
Getting Tall 143
Wen Wu 159
Yellow Tornado 177
“What Men Are Supposed To Do” 197
“One of Us, Not One of Us” 209
Big Little Fighter 223
Authors Note 245
Selected Sources 251