Eat Everything Before You Die: A Novel

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University of Washington Press, 2004 - Fiction - 297 pages
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In this vibrant and original novel, Christopher Columbus Wong, orphan son of a Chinatown bachelor community, is trying to invent a family for himself while all around him American popular culture is reinventing itself with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Christopher finds himself on a wild journey with his gay older brother, Peter, a pan-Pacific TV chef; the defrocked, deranged, and eroding ex-director of a Chinatown settlement house, Reverend Ted Candlewick; the sharp-eyed, conspiring matriarch Auntie Mary, the bridge between the conflicting values that make up this cultural stew; and Uncle Lincoln, a bachelor, short order cook, and, quite possibly, Christopher and Peter's father. Further complicating Christopher's voyage are his ex-wives: Winnie, a Hong Kong immigrant looking for a green card, and Melba, an American orphan of the counterculture.

Set against the backdrop of America's wars in Asia and the assimilation of that experience--the refugees, the stereotypes, the food--Eat Everything Before You Dieis an ironic commentary on the identities the children of Chinese American immigrants concoct from their questionable histories, cultural practices, and survival strategies.

Chan's riotous story will appeal to general readers, particularly those interested in the Asian American experience, and will be of strong, enduring interest to students and scholars in Asian American Studies.

Jeffery Paul Chan is professor of Asian American Studies and of English at San Francisco State University. He co-editedAiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian American WritersandThe Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature.

"Jeffery Chan's story is humorous, satirical, and at times hilarious. . . but with an understated seriousness that articulates a unique Chinese American sensibility." - Marlon K. Hom, Professor and Chair, Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University

"Eat Everything Before You Dieis informed by Chan's extensive knowledge of Asian American literature. The novel references and pays homage to several pioneering works - most significantly to Louis Chu'sEat a Bowl of Tea. . . . WhileEat a Bowl of Teaconcerned itself with the bachelor society in New York City's Chinatown and Chinese American history,Eat Everything Before You Dieworks with issues of pop culture, stereotypes, race, identity, and the family society." - Shawn Wong, author ofHomebaseandAmerican Knees


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Eat everything before you die: a Chinaman in the counterculture

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First novelist Chan (coeditor, The Big Aiieeeee! ) concocts a veritable banquet of images as he follows Christopher Columbus Wong on a stream-of-consciousness odyssey through life in the San Francisco ... Read full review

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About the author (2004)

Ruthanne Lum McCunn is the author of the highly acclaimed novel Thousand Pieces of Gold, as well as a pictorial history, Chinese American Portraits: Personal Histories, 1828-1988. She was born in San Francisco's Chinatown and grew up in Hong Kong. She currently lives in San Francisco.For more information about the author go to

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