American knees

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Simon & Schuster, Limited, 1995 - Fiction - 240 pages
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"You won't even be Chinese after your wife's attorney gets through with you", Raymond Ding's attorney tells him after Darleen has filed for divorce. Raymond wonders if you can be a lapsed Chinese the way you can be a lapsed Catholic. After all, divorce is a number one failing for a number one son - who hasn't even gotten around to starting a family after seven years of marriage. What can Raymond say in his own defense - "I used to be Chinese, but my wife got custody of my ethnicity"? But extricating himself from wedlock is only the beginning of Raymond's problems. When he meets beautiful half-Japanese Aurora Crane, he learns that it's impossible to negotiate the shoals of modern romance without banging his shins on questions of race, culture, and identity he thought he'd left behind in the schoolyard ("What are you, Chinese, Japanese, or American knees?"). Equally uncomfortable with the expectations that family and society, Asian and non-Asian alike, have heaped upon them, he and Aurora try desperately - and comically - to fall out of love.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Seattle poet/essayist Wong's second novel (after Homebase, 1991, not reviewed): a satirical exploration of ethnic-American love whose characters' addiction to sociological rhetoric gets in their (and ... Read full review

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American Knees by Shawn Wong, Professor of English at the University of Washington State. This is a novel I picked up by chance at a library used book sale. It turns out to be interesting read, not of great value, but fun nonetheless. The book is loaded with lots of cultural and race issues that its Asian American characters delt with; some sadly are very identifiable. Anyhow, here's a portion of it: "Raymond has banana tendencies, but that job (Affirmative Action Director of a private college) of his keeps him from peeling. Or he's popcorn - you know, yellow yellow yellow until you put him under pressure, then he turns white." I had no idea there's a term popcorn for describing Asian Americans. And here's an exchange between an Irish-Japanese daughter and her Japanese mom: "Kimi's daughter is getting married in June." Translation: I have to explain to my friends that my daughters are career girls. "Why do you girls always have to wear black?" Translation: Why do you deliebertely make yourselves unattractive? Second Translation: Be more feminine and maybe you'll get a husband. 


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About the author (1995)

Wong is Professor in the Department of English at the University of Washington, and Director of the University's Honors Programme.

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