The Accidental Asian - Eric Liu

What does it mean to be "Asian"? This is the question at the heart of Eric Liu's book, a collection of insightful essays that dissect the word "Asian" to see what's inside. Liu was a speechwriter for Clinton and is a master at the turn of a phrase: his writing simply sounds good, and is enjoyable to read.
When Liu writes about assimilation, and being a "banana" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside), his words strike a chord with me. I, too, have struggled with finding a balance between my desire to preserve my Chinese heritage and yet to be accepted as a true American. Since Liu is Chinese himself, it is easier for me to relate to some of his stories—stories about Chinese school are familiar, and when he mentions the "love boat" I know what he's talking about. His list of "some of the ways you could say I am 'white'" applies largely to me as well:
    + I listen to National Public Radio
    + I wear khaki Dockers
    + I married a white woman
    + I speak flawless, unaccented English
and so on.
The book was published around the time of Clinton's "Asian money" scandal, so he does bring that up from time to time. That's the only thing that made set the book in the past for me—everything else still seemed current and fresh. Some of his chapter headings, to give you an idea about the topics addressed: The Chinatown Idea, Fear of a Yellow Planet, New Jews.
Although Liu is writing from a Chinese standpoint, he also addresses the greater issues of race and ethnicity, especially with mixed-race marriages on the rise. I would highly recommend this book, especially for anyone interested in questions of race.

Fed to jonathan's brain | September 05, 2003