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Striking Distance: Bruce Lee and the Dawn of Martial Arts in America Kindle Edition
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|Length: 264 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
1) This rocks as a piece of long form journalism. It's informative but reads cinematically, like you're watching a movie. As a journalist colleague who's had the great pleasure of working with Russo, I've gotten to see him dive into incredible depths to surface remarkable insights about the martial arts circles of the Bay Area since the book's first stirrings. He pounded the pavement and put in countless of hours into hundreds of original interviews and research to bring to light one of the biggest pop culture icons of our era. It's rewarding to see how he pulled this together in a completely engrossing narrative.
2) It brings to life the San Francisco Bay Area in a larger than life way. The book sheds fresh light on familiar scenes and attaches them to eye-opening, colorful history. I will never be able to stroll through San Francisco Chinatown alleys or Oakland without saying, "THAT happened HERE?" For example, I've had dim-sum countless times practically across the street from where Bruce Lee was born. This would be a great travel companion if you're interested in touring the Bay Area in a really unique way.
3) One of my primary occupations is contemplating the participation of Asian Americans in pop culture and media at large. It's no secret that Asian Americans have been under- or misrepresented, so it's inspiring to see how Bruce Lee busted onto the scene and took his career into his own hands and overcame challenges in the book. I appreciate how Russo comes into conversations within close circles and took the time to get firsthand accounts with people of many different backgrounds in the martial arts scene to bring a really rich understanding to this, showing how Lee muscled his way to success here and overseas. Lee carved out space as masculine hero onscreen; off-screen Russo's book reveals him as wholly human, a man simultaneously rough around the edges and completely refined in his chosen practices. Tangentially related to this is Russo's findings on Lee's heritage. As a person who's mixed race, I crave narratives that show how other people's multiracial identities impact their experience. I enjoy Russo's continued exploration of what this meant for Lee. If you're perpetually in the midst of a near identity crisis as I am and are seeking validation for your differences, or are looking for different kinds of heroes in what you read, give this a try.
Besides all that, it's an incredibly fun read. I never before thought I cared about kung fu or had a burning interest in martial arts, but now I can't learn enough about Bruce Lee and his influence in the martial arts scene and beyond.
This book should be considered a biography, as only a short period of Lee’s life is covered, an approximately five-year period in the early 1960’s. Nor should the book be considered a complete history or a guide to the sport as the book concentrates on the sport as taught and participated in the San Francisco area. But for the information that is written about, this book tells a complete picture and also lets the reader learn about some of the early pioneers of the sport.
Drawing upon extensive research and numerous interviews, the reader will learn about the teachings of various forms of martial arts. From the more popular and familiar forms like tai chi and ju jitsu and also some of the lesser known types as well. Pioneers such as T.Y.Wong, James Yim Lee (not related to Bruce) and Master Choy Kam Man are introduced to the reader.
Bruce Lee’s adventure from being a dancing instructor to an eager martial arts student to a champion in various tourneys is also well documented and a fascinating journey. Not only did Lee participate in martial arts, but he was also a boxer – a sport with a strong connection to martial arts for both training and performance as Russo frequently mentions.
Having little interest in either the sport of martial arts or the story of Bruce Lee before reading this book, it is one that any reader who is interested in any form of the sport should read. Enthusiasts will enjoy the detailed stories about the sport in the Bay area and novices like me will learn a lot as well.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
In his short life Bruce Lee lived not one but several of the quintessential American stories. Striking Distance approaches it's enigmatic hero through his interactions with peers, heritage, and country at a key period in his life. Bruce gained prominence first as a cha-cha dancer, then as a pioneer in the Bay Area martial arts underground. In many ways this is not a biography, but the memoir of a scene as it responded to and was awakened by it's most legendary icon.
This formidable first work by Charles Russo is refreshingly readable. I strongly recommend it to those interested in martial arts, the 1960's, Chinese/Chinese American culture, modernism, Bruce Lee, and the heart of the true self.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a must read for anyone interested in martial arts or San Francisco History.
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