Saturday, May 2, 2015

Review: My Chinese-America by Allen Gee

I took my first class in Asian-American history in high school and what I learned in that class fascinated me. I took an Asian-American literature class in college and did an independent study of it in graduate school. I read Louis Chu's Eat a Bowl of Tea, Carlos Bulosan's America Is In the Heart, John Okada's No-No-Boy, and many more. Although it has been many, many years since I studied any of this, I still gravitate to books that tackle the subject of being Asian-American so when I heard about Allen Gee's collection of essays, My Chinese-America, I was intrigued and curious to see how his writing expanded on the reading I did decades ago.

Gee's essays range from the intensely personal to his feelings about the way Chinese-American culture is perceived, from the way that the media presents Chinese-Americans to his nostalgia for all that is being lost in an increasingly homogenized culture, one catering to tourists. Each essay contains seeds of all of this in them, heightening their intensity and impact. He discusses his own heart condition and family history, playing basketball as a means to fit in, casual racism, and the Asian-American experience. His essays are personal and general, enlightening and, yes, sometimes angry. He confronts the strain of moving from a place where he was not alone to somewhere that his ethnicity not only made him an outsider but also resulted in frustrating and heartbreaking discrimination against his father. He addresses the myth of the passive (read: emasculated) Asian-American male and the perception of Asian-Americans in higher education, especially elite higher education. The essays either have their catalyst in something that occurred in his own life that made him reflect on how his ethnicity played into the event or in the media, and presumably the majority view of Asian-Americans as a generic whole, as is the case with his essay about a racist YouTube video and "Linsanity." Each essay in this short collection crystalizes his thinking further on what it means to Gee to be a Chinese-American man today and who he really is inside his own skin beneath the layers of cultural expectations and media portrayals. The essays are thoughtful in their presentation of one man's experience and they share valuable insight into the reality of an often ignored minority.

For more about Allen Gee, check out the Georgia College faculty page and read the conversation about the book with his publisher. Follow the rest of the reviews for other thoughts on the book. Thanks to the publisher and Serena at Poetic Book Tours for sending me a copy of the book for review.


  1. Never an easy subject, the book sounds very insightful.

  2. Thank you so much for being on this tour! I'm so glad that this resonated with you.


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