Books by Norman Wong

Released: March 10, 1994

Four generations of a family that evolves from Chinese to Chinese-American are spanned in these 11 linked stories from newcomer Wong. Macao and mainland China serve as bookends for the other nine stories, set in Honolulu. The thematic link of the whole is the erosion of traditional beliefs. Mai Wah, an elderly woman living in Macao, is wedded to the old ways (``Chinese medicine for Chinese people''). She hates the idea of her sickly grandson Wei being treated in a Westernized Hong Kong hospital. Several decades later, the middle-aged Wei is living in Honolulu with his wife Marie (an adopted child, she doesn't look ``pure Chinese'') and their children Julia and Michael. Wei is still sickly (a family trait), a reluctant immigrant unlikely to realize his American dream of owning a restaurant, but the more robust and Americanized Marie patronizes a white hairdresser and shops greedily in malls; only when burying her mother does she revert to tradition (deep graves fend off evil spirits). Meanwhile, Michael is eager to break with his past completely. Early on, he is attracted to white males; he has a serious crush on his track coach. In the concluding title story (by far the richest and most nuanced), he is visiting relatives in Hong Kong and Macao with Wei, but his heart is already in Chicago, where he is due to start college. In China, it is a stranger, a gay white American and Sinophile, who behaves like ``the perfect Chinese son'' around Wei, who in turn has been stunned to learn that his grandmother's version of family history was a ``fairy tale.'' Wei cannot accept a revision of the past, any more than he will be able to accept his son's gay present and future. That title story lends luster to an otherwise rather tepid collection that lacks an emotional charge. Read full book review >