Asian American Dreams
by: Helen Zia
New York NY:
Farrar, Straus and Girox 2000, Paperback
Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2011 Issue: 18(4) page(s): 20
Not a cookbook, this must-read volume helps understanding Asian thinking about Chinese and other Asian Americans. Dig into; it is by an award-winning Chinese-American journalist who chronicles little about their food but lots about their attitudes as they work toward emerging as full-fledged Americans. This book helps understand how they see themselves and how they believe outsiders see and act toward them. It should open eyes and change behaviors. It is a call to action for and about all minorities as it helps preserve and explain them.
One minor illustration in it says it all, and it is food related. Chinese eat some items shunned by others. Most Caucasians do not, nor did this Chinese author eat animal parts some might gag on, others think disgusting, and still others rail against for assorted humanitarian reasons.
Many, even the author faced this issue. Her mother talked about eating monkey brains. She speaks about it being practiced by a few affluent Chinese; and that she hated that and that some Chinese ate dogs, young and old. Once, when she and a traveling companion are going to China, on a plane, they read the in-flight magazine and come upon a recipe titled: Ambrosial Puppy Stew. She is shocked and disgusted, as she was about monkey brains. She speaks of spending her life, until then, screaming at rude folk: "We do not eat dogs." Yet here in English and Chinese, she has to confront the fact that some Chinese do. Using this vignette, she asks herself and all of us, "When will we feel safe enough to project our whole selves?" She wonders if Asian Americans will forever censor themselves?
Confronting this issue, Zia says that Asian Americans must show their blemishes as well as their beauty. She chastises herself and others pointing out that the blemishes of individuals should not be applied to an entire people, be they for food, improper fund-raising, or anything else.
Overall, this book is a self-portrait and a ground-breaking opportunity to understand the author's ethnicity, that of all Asian Americans, be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, or another Asian group. They are discussed helping one internalize thoughts about all minorities.
Zia examines rampant stereotypes that impact Asian Americans and others. She refreshes the turbulence of past decades. She reminds of times past and present when Asian Americans demanded and still demand a place in American society. She opens minds and helps accepting people for what and who they are. She points out many melting pots in America that blend into and strengthen this great country.
Those who love Chinese and other Asians and their food, can stir-fry and step up to the plate. Transform self into a person who accepts every Asian American, every minority person. Feel fine with their foibles because everyone has warts. Love them and every item about them including their food. Just eat the foods whose tastes one adores, and take part in things that please the palate.