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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
A Thousand Wings by T. C. Huo 
13th-Apr-2006 10:59 pm
*grouches* This novel was even worse than I originally thought it would be after reading a few of the trade reviews. I am once again underwhelmed by Asian-American literature. At least there wasn't any vindictive streak. I guess only the women Asian-American writers do that.

Huo, T. C. A Thousand Wings. New York: Dutton, 1998.
Summary: Successful Southeast Asian cuisine caterer Fong Mun befriends fellow Laotian Raymond, who is too young to remember his heritage. Fong Mun recalls his childhood, fleeing Laos to Thailand and eventually the US in the wake of Communism, indelibly linked to the food he ate and longed for.
Comments: I'm still waiting for a chef novel that's actually INTERESTING. If Huo weren't a gay Asian-American of rather unusual ethnicity, I doubt he would've gotten published at all--that a publisher as prestigious as Dutton picked up this debut at all baffles me. The prose is inelegantly simple, uncharismatic, and, at times, awkward, and you will find yourself unable to give a cracked penny for Fong Mun's rather banal childhood tribulations. He, in comparison to other people of his time and location, I would imagine, was never in much danger, and a decent portion of his malnutrition seems self-inflicted. We get a little bit of angsting about how he is often mistaken for a girl and derided as a katoy (sissy), but even bigotry lacks resonance here! Shyam Selvadurai does a much better version of a similar narrative in Funny Boy. Really, the only parts I enjoyed at all were the all-too-brief chapters of Fong Mun and Raymond's first day together; it all would've worked SO much better had Huo simply scrapped all the heavy-duty coming-of-age subplots and written a sweet, run-of-the-mill romance.
Notes: hardcover, 1st edition, out-of-print
Rating: 4/10 - Skip it. The best part of this novel was simply knowing that it was over and done with.
14th-Apr-2006 07:41 am (UTC)
Kateey is Thai slang for 'gay' in general and more specifically means 'effiminate gay man' which the English 'transvestite' is the more accurate translation.

I'm curious though. What did he/the character say about escaping into Thailand? People from Laos illegally enter Thailand by the hundreds everyday and are exploited by farm owners as cheap labour.
14th-Apr-2006 11:18 am (UTC)
What did he/the character say about escaping into Thailand?

This was during the Vietnam War, so the situation was perhaps a bit different than it is today. He lived in the city of Bangkok with another family and tried to pass for Thai (didn't work at all). He was paranoid about being caught as an illegal and deported (since they were hunting Communists in Thailand), but he was never, as far as I could tell, in serious, immediate danger of being caught.
14th-Apr-2006 12:35 pm (UTC)
I really should ask my grandmother about the Vietnam War. From the little I've heard about it, it seems it was very messy and a lot of Thai people are still angry about it.
14th-Apr-2006 01:11 pm (UTC)
They did actually have refugee camps in Thailand as well during that time. The protagonist of the novel spends some time in one before going to the US.
28th-Apr-2006 11:07 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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