Miscellaneous and Useless Information

Chinese and Taiwanese in America

Just in time for the end of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:

Secret Asian Man Secret Asian Man by Tak Toyoshima is a nationally syndicated comic strip (one of the few, if not only, by an Asian-American), that often deals with racial issues in the U.S. I first saw it in the Mercury News.

GeneYang-AmericanBornChinese-cover One book on my reading list is American Born Chinese [review], a highly regarded graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, which won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature. (So maybe I’m not in its primary target audience…) The author relates his experience growing up as an Asian-American through three different stories.

Fortune Cookie Chronicles Another book on my reading list is The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee. The author’s original purpose was to track down the origin of the fortune cookie, which is basically unknown in China, but the book broadens out into a general discussion of Chinese food in the U.S. Lee makes an amusing appearance on The Colbert Report to promote her book.

fortunecook-790146 There is also a film on the origin of the fortune cookie, The Killing of a Chinese Cookie by Derek Shimoda. It focuses more on the fortune cookie than on Chinese cuisine in general. I saw this movie at the San Francisco Asian American International Film Festival, and it’s thoroughly entertaining.

Asian-American comedians are hitting their stride, from 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors to the Kims of Comedy. I saw a bit by one of the “Kims”, Dr. Ken Jeong (who is also a real physician), about his previous girlfriend:

My last girlfriend: 5-foot-10 white woman. I’m a 5-4 Korean boy. Ok, we’re walking down the street, you’re not thinking, “What a cute couple.” You’re thinking, “Oh look, she’s got a tutor.”

Finally, Jeff Wong writes a column for SFGate covering Asians in pop culture, appropriate titled Asian Pop [archive]. In his latest column, he asks whether Asian-Americans in their thirties and older (e.g., me), obsessed with our depiction in movies, books, and TV, are fighting yesterday’s war. While traditional media are still important, teenagers and twenty-somethings are increasingly focused on other types of media, especially online. Have I become curmudgeonly already?

Recently I scored great deals on a few books. At Moe’s Books in Berkeley I bought:

And then at Compass Books (owned by Books Inc.) in San Francisco Airport, I bought:

Total amount:  $73.83 $22.98. Saved over $50. Sweeeeet.

On KCSM, I caught the last half hour of a fascinating documentary called Beijing or Bust. It follows six Chinese-Americans who move to Beijing to live and work, as they discuss their reactions to a rapidly changing China and their dual identities as Chinese and American. (I later found out that the filmmaker, Hao Wu, has been detained by the Chinese government without a stated reason and has been denied access to a lawyer. Argh!) It will air again on KCSM this Sunday at 2 AM. Fire up the VCR… (I'm too cheap to get a Tivo)

New York Times: Classes in Chinese Grow as the Language Rides a Wave of Popularity

With encouragement from the Chinese and American governments, schools across the United States are expanding their language offerings to include Chinese, the world’s most spoken tongue, not to mention one of its most difficult to learn.

At a new generation of Chinese restaurants in New York, you don’t have to worry about the food being Americanized. That’s because the Chinese food is via other countries, including Korea, India, Madagascar, Cuba, and Peru. One Chinese-Peruvian dish called lomo saltado — a stir fry of beef, onions and tomatoes seasoned with soy sauce and served over french fries or fried potatoes — isn’t even considered Chinese in Peru, much like how Americans don’t consider hot dogs and hamburgers to be German food.

Thanks, Rich: Gish Jen writes about the “wonderful Chinese restaurants exhibit” at the Museum of Chinese in the Americas.

My previous post on an African-American boy who sings Chinese opera reminded Rich of a former Chinese scholar named Abigail Washburn who sings bluegrass songs in Chinese. She is currently touring China and getting a good reception.

Ever since I read a New York Times article on Chinese-Americans in the Mississippi Delta, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the Chinese-American experience away from the urban coasts. Looks like I’m not the only one: Berkeley artist Indigo Som has an ongoing project called the Chinese Restaurant Project. The latest exhibition is called Mostly Mississippi: Chinese Restaurants of the South, which is being shown at the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. Ms. Som is speaking there today at 3:00 about her project. (Too bad I can’t go.)

Also, you can contribute to her project! She is conducting a survey of Chinese restaurant experiences, and is collecting take-out menus from every Chinese restaurant in the U.S. Maybe I’ll get a few for her while I’m up in Portland next month…

Tyler Thompson doesn’t speak the language, but he sings it very well.

Oakland: Boy, 9, a rising star in Chinese opera • San Francisco Chronicle

Boy who sings in Chinese draws oohs, ahs • Oakland Tribune (link good until Feb. 20, 2005)

(Chronicle link added on Febrary 16, 2006)