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Yellow: Stories Paperback – May 17, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set mostly in Rosarita Bay, a fictional coastal town near San Francisco, this debut collection from the editor of the literary journal Ploughshares traces the lives (usually the romantic lives) of a motley assortment of male protagonists. Lee examines the circumstances of Asians living in white society, as well as the differences and occasional tensions, mostly unnoticed by Anglos between persons of various Asian descents. "The Price of Eggs in China" finds gifted furniture designer Dean Kaneshiro caught in the middle of a feud between his girlfriend, Caroline Yip, and Marcella Ahn (aka the Oriental Hair Poets). Caroline is convinced that the more successful Marcella exists only to torment her, and Dean hatches a dubious plan to end their years-old rivalry. In "Voir Dire," public defender Hank Low Kwon grapples with his representation of a cocaine addict accused of beating his girlfriend's infant son to death. Hank's anxiety over the case and his occupation in general is exacerbated by the pregnancy of his own girlfriend, Molly, a blonde diving coach. And Korean-American oncologist Eugene Kim contemplates the peculiarities of mixed-race romances in "Domo Arigato," recalling an ill-fated weekend spent in Japan 20 years ago with a white girlfriend and her parents. Eugene wonders if "you couldn't overcome the hatreds of countries or race, any more than you could forgive someone for breaking your heart." Hatred and heartbreak, though, are mitigated by Lee's cool yet sympathetic eye and frequently dark sense of humor, as when, in the title story, young Danny Kim watches in horror as a drunk kisses his father on the mouth and proclaims, "I forgive you for Pearl Harbor." Agent, Maria Massie. (Apr.)Forecast: This appealing collection shouldn't be relegated to Asian Studies shelves. The fact that Norton is the publisher, coupled with word-of-mouth interest among the literary set, may boost crossover appeal.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Just imagine Annie Yung. She's 38, with a good software job in Silicon Valley, but now she's listening to Patsy Cline, wearing tight jeans, cowboy boots, and a "bleached-blonde hairdo that looked for all the world like a plastic stalagmite." She's looking for love in a cowboy bar in Rosarita Bay (aka Half Moon Bay, California). It's no surprise that the guy she meets turns out to have as many complications as she does. And Annie is typical of the Asian American characters you'll meet in these lyrical and intriguing short stories. There's surfer Duncan Roh, whose search for a woman to marry is getting nowhere. One of his lovers is a reference librarian whom he met at a meditation class where she was seeking relief from the great stress in her life caused by people asking stupid questions. She dumps Duncan for his lack of self-awareness. Each of Lee's achingly vulnerable characters deals with totally believable fears, plus an added layer of racial awareness. The final story, "Yellow," sums it all up in the struggles of handsome Danny Kim, whose perspective is continually skewed by his fear of racism. The Rosarita Bay setting provides connection, but the characters also mingle, adding texture to a compelling, beautifully written collection. Peggy Barber
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 255 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (May 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323085
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In an interview, Lee mentions Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Joyce's Dubliners as literary influences for his seminal work of short stories, Yellow (2001), which focuses on the lives of Asian-Americans living or connected to Rosarita Bay, modeled after Half Moon Bay, California.

Lee's book avoids immigrant narratives focusing instead on the lives of Asian-Americans who experience themselves as "American" without the carrying the complex weight of moving from one country to another. While one may encounter shadows of post-diasporic experience in the stories, "Casual Water" and "Yellow", Lee does not preoccupy readers with plot lines most often associated with the work of more commonly known Asian-American writers.

Instead, he illustrates well the various issues assimilated Asian-Americans face as they live in a country where occasionally, they are reminded of their immigration status, regardless of whether they have been born in the United States. For Lee, race politics includes a Chinese thug who questions his Korean-American attorney about his white girlfriend in "Voir Dire", presuming that a white girlfriend automatically indicates a form of race treachery. Annie Yung, in the delightful, "Lone Night Cantina", assumes a cowgirl identity only to find herself facing the problems with assuming an identity that is not authentic to her person.

Some Asian-American students will react to Yellow by arguing that they do not find Lee's characters "Asian" enough which begs the question: What does it mean to be Asian/Asian-American and what are the risks of narrowly-defining characteristics that ultimately lead to essentialism.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't think I've ever encountered a collection of stories where every single story fulfilled me so thoroughly. There are eight gems in Yellow, seven decent-sized stories and one long one, the titular tale that may be the most accomplished of the lot. That story chronicles the life of Danny Kim, who is doing exactly what FDR told everyone not to: fearing fear itself. The fear in Danny's life is racism, and he's never actually hurt by it in any grand fashion, probably because he heads it off (or at least thinks he heads it off). His character is fascinating and yet very believable: he's the kind of guy who, at the prospect of getting knifed by an assailant, might take out his own knife and slice himself before any damage could be incurred by the other party. "Yellow" is the longest story in the book and the most satisfying.
I found "The Price of Eggs in China" to be the most fun story, full of lovely twists and great detail about the making of furniture. "Casual Water" was the most heartbreaking, a sad story about two boys abandoned by both parents. Really, there isn't a weak story in this entire book. It's unfortunate that Yellow probably won't get past the typical Asian-American reader, because this book is quite universal in many respects, much like Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies.
Oh well. Maybe not every Joe and Jane Doe will read it, but here's one reader who's a much happier person for having read this wonderful collection.
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By A Customer on May 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
Finally an Asian American work that avoids cliches and writes about such things as Asian American men and Asian Hottie fetish mixed with racism and sexual politics to boot--and all with real intelligence. Lee pins everyone to the wall--men and women--explores their issues, their sexuality, their prejudices, and their hang-ups in a subtle, but engaging and realistic way. The prose is top-rate, Lee is a masterful storyteller on par with some of the best fiction writers out there. The stories "Casual Water" and the eponymous "Yellow" are poignant, well-written stnadouts; but check out "Domo Arigato," the story of a Korean American male and his white lover in Japan, and you get the feeling of Finally! Really great writing that has finally broken past the cliched Asian American streotypes of the past!
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Format: Paperback
Normally I like to read novels. The reason why I read this book is because I like the second book from the same author (The country of origin). I am not an experienced reviewer. I can't tell whether it is pedestrian or literally meaningful. However, I like it very much. It is so enthralling in spite of the subtle writing style that I could barely put the book down. Once I have started one story, I had to continue reading till I had read the whole story.
My favorite stories are "Casual Water", about two young boys struggling to make a living after abandoned by their parents; and "Yellow", about a successful Korean consultant's internal struggle with his indentity and the cultural differences. For me, they are very moving and insightful.
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I was very disappointed in this book. A friend recommended it to me, and I thought it would give me deeper insight into Asian-American identity -- instead it did the exact opposite. This is your typical tawdry adult fiction, except the characters act white and have Asian names. There is no richness of culture described here, no positive role models for Asians to look up to, nothing redeeming to make me want to read it again or share it with anyone. It's no wonder that all the personal book endorsements are non-Asians. Perhaps this is what white people want to read about Asians. Mr. Lee's characters lack depth and heart, and none of them resemble people I know, with the exception of parts of the last story about Danny. It's no coincidence since the author says that chapter was based on his personal experiences. If Mr. Lee's intention was to show the lives of 3rd/4th generation Asian-Americans, then it's a sad testament to the loss of culture/ethnic pride.
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