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What does it mean to be Asian American?

Yellow Journalist

Dispatches from Asian America

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William Wong

"For three decades, William Wong has been America's most energetic and entertaining chronicler of the Asian diaspora and its effects on politics, culture, business, sports, dress, diet, and language. Like other great humorists, he exposes the painful absurdities that plague each new wave of immigrant families as they enrich the national character, from Wong's own adventurous parents to Tiger Woods. Some of these pieces offer surprising insights on geopolitics and others explore the legal and social consequences of racial discrimination, but my favorites are the playful essays, including the classic 'So That's Why I Can't Lose Weight.' "
Jay Mathews, Washington Post reporter and columnist, and author of Class Struggle

Who are Asian Americans? Are they the remnants of the "yellow peril" portrayed in the media through stories on Asian street gangs, unscrupulous political fundraisers, and crafty nuclear spies? Or are they the "model minority" that the media present as consistently outranking European Americans in math scores and violin performances?

In this funny, sobering, and always enlightening collection, journalist William Wong comments on these and other anomalies of the Asian American experience. From its opening tribute to the Oakland Chinatown of Wong's childhood to its closing tribute to Tiger Woods, Yellow Journalist portrays the many-sided legacies of exclusion and discrimination. The stories, columns, essays, and commentaries in this collection tackle such persistent problems as media racism, criminality, inter-ethnic tensions, and political marginalization. As a group, they make a strong case for the centrality of the Asian American historical experiences in U.S. race relations.

The essays cover many subjects, from the personal to policy, from the serious to the silly. You will learn a little Asian American history and a lot about the nuances and complexities of the contemporary Asian American experience. If there is an overriding theme of these stories and essays, it is the multi-faceted adaptation of ethnic Asians to the common American culture, the intriguing roles that they play in our society, and the quality of their achievements to contribute to a better society.

Bill Wong's high school journalism teacher took him aside during his senior year and told him he would have to be "twice as good" to succeed at his chosen profession. Succeed he did, and "twice as good" he is. As Darrell Hamamoto remarks in his Foreword, "'Chinaman,' Chinese American, Asian American; any way you slice it, Bill Wong is one straight-up righteous Yellow Man."

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction and an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).

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Reviews

"One of the advantages of having a writer of Bill Wong's talent around is that we don't have to depend upon intermediaries and go-betweens to give us insights about issues affecting Asian-Americans. He is often entertaining, and ironic, but underneath it all is a serious mind devoted to shattering myths about one of our fastest growing minorities."
Ishmael Reed, author of The Reed Reader

"It is about time that America meet William Wong—an icon in journalism whose experience as a second generation Chinese-American has given him a unique lens through which life in America can be examined. For almost two decades, his columns in the Oakland Tribune and other San Francisco bay area newspapers have captured a different kind of reality about some of our most important social, cultural, and political moments. Wong's readiness to share his family, his community, and his conscience allows readers to cross a bridge into the world of Asian America. Whether it is an analysis of the 1996 campaign finance scandals or a perspective on how parent pressures and bi-cultural conflicts can play out in a young Asian American teen's life, Wong's skillful weaving of humor, irony, and poignant portrayals of the circumstances make each story linger long past the final sentence of his essay."
Angela E. Oh, Lecturer/Former Advisory Board Member, President's Initiative on Race

"...an anthology of Wong's best writing from the last decade and a half, covering an impressive array of topics and tone."
Asianweek

"[Wong] uses essays, columns and commentaries to provide an insider's view of the mosaic of experiences of Asian Americans."
The Chicago Reporter

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Visit YellowJournalist.com.

The 3 June 2005 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle featured a column by William Wong about bigotry in the 49ers' training videos.

 

Contents

Series Foreword – by Darrell Y. Hamamoto
Acknowledgments
Introduction

1. Hometown: In the Shadow of San Francisco
American Dream, Chinatown Branch • A "Manong" with Magical Hands

2. Family: From Agrarianism to Cyberspace
Finding Sacred Ground • Traditions: Old and New • "Rock On, Mr. President"

3. History: From Exclusion to Confusion
Conquering Frontiers and Barriers • Wong Is an American Name • The "Forgotten Holocaust" • Healing Wounds, or Opening Them? • The Price of Memories

4. Immigration: Huddled Masses
Still Searching for Gold Mountain • Second-Class Citizenship • Downsize Your SUV • Se Habla English

5. Identity and Acculturation: Visibility Invisible
A State of Mind • So That’s Why I Can’t Lose Weight • Yellow Chic • A Tumultuous World in Transition • "We Lost a Country" • Who’s a Bonehead Now? • Paradise Lost • Minnesota Chow Mein • Best Friend or Best Meal? • Violating the Crustacean Creed • Parenting, Chinese Style • The American Nightmare

6. Anti-Asian Racism: Forever Foreigner
"The Boat People Own Everything" • Learning from the Vincent Chin Case • Escaping Racism: No Way Out • The Golden State of Bigotry • Swastikas in the Sunset • Un-American Christians • I Am a Gook

7. Class: Yin and Yang
Picking on the Most Vulnerable • New Global Capitalists • An Obnoxious Status Quest • The Rich Can Be Nice Too • Exploiting Our Own

8. Affirmative Action: The Myth of Meritocracy
Between a Rock and a Hard Place • Calling for Magician Administrators • The Selfish Versus the Altruists • When Values Collide

9. Gender: He Said, She Said
The “Hottest” Dating Trend • Special Assets • Hiding Behind a Cultural Defense • The Hero of Asian Men

10. Race Relations: Why Can't We All Get Along?
Just Who Is the Victim Here? • Playing Together • Plenty of Blame to Go Around • Middleman Myopia • Yellow Pride Versus Multiculturalism • Beyond Black and White

11. Politics: A Seat at the Table
Right Man, Wrong Time • Race and Ideology: Bumping into Each Other • An Asian American “Mr. Fixit” • Riding a Yellow Wave • A Common Human Affliction • A Question of Loyalty • Trolling for the Big Fish • Scientific Scapegoat

12. Crime: Bang, Bang, You’re Dead
“It Makes You Feel Special” • The Model Minority Criminal • Born to Kill • Boyish Appeal

13. Stars: I AM Somebody
Colorblind Casting • Forbidden in More Ways Than One • The Connie Chung Syndrome • Kowtowing to the Queen • Disposable Commodities • Mercenaries • The Politics of a Bond Film • Money Talks • The News Media: Only Getting Part of It • Everybody’s Child

Publication Credits
Index

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About the Author(s)

Writer and journalist William Wong has been regional commentator for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer and a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, Oakland Tribune, and Asian Week, among other publications.

Subject Categories

Asian American Studies
Mass Media and Communications


In the series

Mapping Racisms, edited by Jo Carrillo, Darrell Y. Hamamoto, Rodolfo D. Torres, and E. Frances White.

The books in Mapping Racisms, edited by Jo Carrillo, Darrell Y. Hamamoto, Rodolfo D. Torres, and E. Frances White, assess the changing nature and meaning of racialized social relations in the United States. Although many of the works in the series are expected to be cultural, socio-economic, and historical studies devoted to a single ethnic group, the editors are especially interested in manuscripts that explore comparisons among these groups and analyze contemporary expressions of racialized relations and identities in the context of demographic shifts, changing class formations, and new forms of global dislocation. The aim of the series is to publish books that are analytical and rigorous, but at the same time appealing to a general audience.

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