We’ve surveyed a number of independent bookstores to ask, ‘What should we be reading this summer?’ Over the coming weeks, we’ll bring you recommendations from each.
Harvey Dong was just a customer at Berkeley’s Eastwind Books when he caught word that the owners were thinking of shutting the store down. That was in 1996. Nearly 20 years later Dong runs Eastwind in addition to teaching Asian-American studies up the block at University of California at Berkeley. Today the store, which once focused on Chinese-language titles, carries a broad selection of Asian and Asian-American books, from history to children’s books, cookbooks to novels. In the second installment of our summer reading series, Dong shares his current favorites.
1. “The First Chinese American” by Scott Seligman (Hong Kong University Press, 2013)
“Seligman’s book is about Wong Chin Foo, a Chinese immigrant who came over to the U.S. [in] the 1870s and got caught in the middle of the debate about Chinese exclusion. Foo actually debated Denis Kearney of the Workingmen’s Party–Kearney coined the term “the Chinese must go”–and mockingly challenged him to a duel. It was a pretty bold thing for a Chinese immigrant to do. The Exclusion Act was passed, and it was a pretty bad period, but Wong Chin Foo established a civil rights organization of Chinese-Americans in the United States.
Foo also used theater and sarcasm against the white supremacists. For instance, as a farcical critique of missionaries from the West who were trying to establish Christianity in China he set up a Chinese mission to establish Confucianism in the West. Foo also was active the community. He was involved in freeing Chinese women who were forced into prostitution so he got into a lot of trouble with the Chinatown establishment. Foo was a real radical.”
2. “Tiger Babies Strike Back” by Kim Wong Keltner (William Morrow Paperbacks, 2013)
“Kim Wong Keltner’s book is a response to Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.’ She’s debating against the stereotype that children should be raised by tiger parents. Not many speak openly about these issues, but she reflects quite a bit on her own life experience being raised by a tiger mother. She felt like she would walk down the street and people would assume that she too would be a tiger mother, so her book is more for the social commentary.”
3. ”Northern Shaolin Style: Number 5 Martial Skill” by Rick Wing (Jing Mo Association, 2005)
4. & 5. “The Dragon and the Tiger: Bruce Lee, The Oakland Years” vols. 1 and 2 by Greglon Yimm Lee (Frog Books, 2003; Blue Snake Books, 2005)
“In 1964 Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man were involved in a famous sparring match in Oakland that resulted in a tie. Greglon Yimm Lee, who’s an instructor of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, and Rick Wing, an instructor of the Northern Shaolin style of kung fu taught by Wong Jack Man, wrote these books about their martial arts masters. They focus on the history of each style and the founders. Both Lee and Man were responsible for shaping Chinese martial arts in the United States. There was supposed to have been conflict between the two styles, but both of the authors talk about how much they have in common.”