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More filters. Sort order. Start your review of The Barbarians are Coming. Dec 07, Elaine rated it really liked it Shelves: american-contemporary-writers , cooking , identity , race-immigrant-stories , debut-novels. What's happened to David Wong Louie? This was a gem of a book, and all the better, like a discovery of a hidden stash of chocolate, because I came in with middling expectations.
I'd heard of him when I was in college.. But since then The plot. A classically-trained French chef, who is second generation Chinese from Longuy-lun a. Long Island -- Sterling Lung -- struggles with identity, fatherhood, ancestry, and that clash of ideology and values that only a second generation Chinese growing up in Nixon America would.
Into this stew, David Wong Louie throws in a second-generation Jewish woman, whose grandparents survived the Holocaust, but who grew up in Connecticut. She becomes pregnant with Sterling Lung's child, ahem, out of wedlock. Sterling Lung also works at a country club-style establishment, cooking for a group of "WASP-y" women who liked to fondle his ponytail black brush and constantly asking him to cook Chinese, which Sterling can't do, because he wasn't trained for it.
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Instead, he can produce a superlative boudin blanc or gigot d'agneau. His only friendship seems to be with a Jewish butcher, from which David Wong Louie constructs amazing, downright hilarious interactions and revelatory moments. Louie is deliberately playful with his naming. His Jewish girlfriend's name is Bliss Sass, and she's anything but blissful, more like a ten-ton truck that flattens anything standing in her way toward marriage and kids. The writing is wonderful, the sentences snappy, the scenes insert fresh elements like that scene with his father--in-law involving the five-thousand dollar fence he constructed to keep deer out of his property and Sterling gets zapped by electricity.
David Wong Louie forges elemental connections in his sentences that had me chuckling and shaking my head at the same time. In a quick aside, he writes of the father who learned to drive after losing a kidney "The man loses a vital organ and, naturally, he wants to learn to drive a car. In Genius' universe, there's a perverse logic in the substitution of an internal combustion engine for a kidney, which squeezes piss from blood: Both make you go.
Witness this: Libby Drake, the woman who is president of the club, introduces Sterling to her assembled guests. I can read her perfectly: Not only are the slides and the memories they hold hers, so are the people and objects in those pictures. And here I am, as if I'd just stepped off the screen, proof of her assertion. It's the throwaway detail that catches my eye time and again as a writer. The throwaway detail that tells so much in its economy. Zsa Zsa who could neither read nor write English despite having been in America to birth four children, for whom riding the bus is an ordeal, because her "ultimate nightmare is getting off too early or too late".
Genius' reaction to a discarded Frigidaire out on the kerb, "I won it. It's all mine. Sterling wants his father-in-law's magnificent house, with "its entirely glass, ten-foot-tall windows looking out at acres of prime Connecticut real estate. But really, where it cuts to the bone pardon the cooking metaphor, although it ties in so well with the cooking theme of this book and Sterling's friendship with a butcher , is the ironic reflection Sterling makes of his communiques with his father-in-law.
The man asks him immediately to call him "Dad" before the wedding is over. He puts his hands on his shoulders, he confides in Sterling. These intimacies shared between father-in-law and son-in-law are simultaneously all the intimacies lacking in Sterling's relationship with his own father, Genius.
The gulf between father and son, first and second generation Chinese in America, is explored through the lens of The Other --the Jewish father in law thus, flipping the archetype of "the other" as a double-entendre of the racial power dynamic. A lot of this kind of racial territory has been explored ad infinitum since, in myriad stereotypes of the Asian American experience, but when David Wong Louie first wrote all this in , this was fresh ground, and the writing, the narrative, the plotting reveal that.
The story is all in shade, the shade of that beautiful thing called 'nuance'. There's so much to learn here for the immigrant novelist. Definitely, take a leaf out of this book. Nov 21, Kevin Keyaert rated it really liked it Shelves: mixed-race , north-american , urban-multiculture. This would probably count as my introduction to the East Asian immigrant experience subgenre, and I was certainly pleased that this book in fact picked me in the Oxfam bookshop, or was serendipitously handed to me at least.
I felt the first part of the story had a solid build-up. It had all the right elements for what felt like an accurate portrayal of the emotional numbness that comes with the unending internal struggle of being stuck between appropriating cultures. This numbness tha This would probably count as my introduction to the East Asian immigrant experience subgenre, and I was certainly pleased that this book in fact picked me in the Oxfam bookshop, or was serendipitously handed to me at least.
This numbness that Sterling feels, as an American-born Chinese, was not void of feeling or empathy but a result of accepting that his life has always elicited disappointment in other people. However, subsequent parts of the novel give us the bigger picture and a satisfying backstory but for some reason I was always hoping that the story would segue back to the atmosphere of Sterling's premarital life.
Instead, things became grimmer with every page as the general theme of the book became more about advanced alienation and detachment than about merely not being able to meet all sorts of expectations preordained by your loved ones. Contrasting Chinese and Jewish- American culture through food serves as a natural metaphor for describing belonging and identity, and this was done very tastefully. May 16, Darrin L rated it really liked it. Like most families that immigrated to America. Especially obvious with his father, named Genius, runs a laundromat in Richfield working full time to be able to afford rent, and his mother Zsa Zsa stays home to play the role of housewife.
One of the most important themes of this book is discrimination. Another major theme about this novel is Americanization. The process of which that many people who immigrated to America had to deal with in order to obtain the American Dream. Things become tense though for the Lung family when Sterling decides to become a chef. After graduating from a university, disobeying his father, Sterling studies at a culinary school to become a chef. Genius wants Sterling to be the man of the house and become a doctor in order to obtain the American Dream.
However, this causes a distance in the relationship between father and son. It also starts to ruin the stability of their family. Ever since Sterling finally got a job as a chef he is always still resenting his father. Whenever he cooks food he will never make Chinese cuisine, and only makes other dishes.
This shows that Sterling has became Americanized and obtained his idea of an American dream this would lead to a rift between him and his father. I would recommend this book because it tells a story of a very relatable story to many. Similar to The Kite Runner, after immigrating to America Baba wanted Amir to either become a lawyer or doctor, but Amir wanted to become a writer.
The same situation can be said for Sterling. Another reason I would recommend this book is due to the authors use of many literary devices such as foreshadowing and imagery. She told the friend she traveled with that she had met her husband. He and Ms. Brooks made plans to see each other in three weeks. Instead she flew to see him the next weekend.
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That weekend she met Sydney, who wailed at Ms. Brooks's presence but who was sharing toys with her by the end of the first day. During that visit Ms. Brooks told Mr. Hawkins, "I could marry you anytime. For the next two years they commuted on weekends between Chicago and Orlando.
here Hawkins said. When they agreed to marry, they also agreed to continue commuting, even when they have children together. Hawkins said he hopes to open a branch office in Chicago. Brooks said. They married on the flagstone deck of a large redwood house they rented for the occasion in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Sydney clutched both their hands as the Rev. Willie T.
Barrow, a Church of God minister who is as comfortable with a bullhorn as a Bible, officiated. Afterward, Sydney declared that the best part of the day "was when we got married. As they were cutting the cake for their 25 guests, Ms. Brooks, sylphlike in a slinky, silk Nicole Miller size 2 gown, had a rare moment of doubt.