CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD by Jessica Hagedorn


An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction
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 A generous and varied sampling: 48 authors writing in a variety of styles, 22 selections previously unpublished and many others published only overseas or by journals or small presses--a substantial, often engrossing volume at a bargain price. Hagedorn has included traditionally structured fiction that directly addresses cultural experience: in ``Immigration Blues,'' by Bienvenido Santos, an ailing widower is approached by a Filipina who needs an American husband; the excerpt from Shawn Wong's novel- in-progress is a frank, cleareyed, often funny look at the cultural and racial subtext when two Asian-Americans have an affair; and several selections are outright family memoir or memoir-like. Some authors shatter myths of the ``model minority'' with stories of family violence, sexual transgression. There's also much experimentation here--usually focused on personal life rather than on culture and history: poetic meditation (notably, ``Afterbirth'' by Kimiko Hahn); a disturbing, self-conscious broken narrative from John Yau; an effective series of vignettes and incantatory passages by R. Zamora Linmark; the use of pidgin by Hawaiian writers Lois- Ann Yamanaka and Darell Lum. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, less aesthetically pleasing but extremely influential, uses fragmentation and exhortation to write of Korean politics (``Melpomene Tragedy''). Best-known contributors include Cynthia Kadohata, Maxine Hong Kingston, Bharati Mukherjee (all with previously published work) and Amy Tan (a touching outtake from The Kitchen God's Wife). If there's bias here, it's a slight tilt toward the Philippines and to writers from the vibrant Bay Area multicultural scene: varying quality but largely inclusive--though surely needing an update soon to include Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian- American voices.

Pub Date: Dec. 14th, 1993
ISBN: 0-14-023111-0
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993


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