Book Review: Don Lee's "Yellow"

So I just finished another book. This time it was Don Lee's Yellow. I got to say that I love this book!  In fact, I would say of all of the Asian American lit books, Yellow is my favorite, HANDS DOWN.

Yellow is a collection of short stories, most of them set in Rosarita Bay, a fictional coastal town near San Francisco. As I was reading Lee's description of Rosarita Bay, I thought to myself, "Sounds like Half Moon Bay," which is 2 towns over from where I live. But there are hardly any Asians in Half Moon Bay.

Lee's fictional Rosarita Bay, however, is a hick town with an unusually high percentage of overachieving Asian Americans for its small population. You've got lawyers, doctors, world famous artists and writers living in this sleepy town. It's like the TV show "Twin Peaks," but filled with Asian people.

And yet most of these overachieving characters don't have any issues related to their Asian identity. Sure, they have issues. But for the most part, there is no issue regarding their racial identities. The stories revolve around some basic human motivations: jealousy, insecurity, loneliness, sex. The fact that these characters are Asian is incidental.

What I liked about these stories was that each of these characters was comfortable with his or her sexuality. Virtually everybody had a healthy libido and no hang ups over their race. This made the book much more enjoyable to read than David Mura's Where the Body Meets Memory, which was tedious at times. Granted, it's not fair to compare a short story collection with an autobiography, but every one of the short stories in Yellow sucked me in.  The title story "Yellow" is the only story of the collection that delves into Asian American identity and sexuality, and this story does a much better job at exploring the issues than Mura's entire book.

The quality of Lee's storytelling and writing defies genre.  If you like good short story fiction, whether or not you're into AA lit, then get this book.
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