Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Chinese cooking might be even more enigmatic than the Chinese language .  Learning  the  latter requires a brain, but learning the former requires a soul.

When the Chinese refer to the Gang of Four who guided the Cultural Revolution from its inception in 1966 until its demise with the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, they hold up of all five fingers of one hand to indicate that Mao himself was behind the whole decade-long disaster. A popular topic among people who lived through that madness is “What did you do during the Cultural Revolution?” Few think back fondly of the time and many mock it. At a party in Shanghai I met a solitary photographer named Gang whose business card read “Gang of One.”

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

The “Chop Suey Craze” that engulfed large American and Canadian cities in the early decades of the 20th century (see might be viewed as a positive reaction to the American and Canadian Chinese Exclusion laws that began in the U.S. in 1882 and continued until 1943 when the U.S. needed Chinese support in the war with Japan. The demonization of Chinese immigrants by American labor activists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries gradually gave way to an admiration of some, but by no means all, aspects of the immigrant Chinese and their culture.

By Erika Lee

Pub. Date: May 2003

Publisher: University of North Carolina Press, The

Sales Rank: 388,022

ISBN-13: 9780807854488

ISBN: 0807854484

Edition Description: First Edition


With the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Chinese laborers became the first group in American history to be excluded from the United States on the basis of their race and class. This landmark law changed the course of U.S. immigration history, but we know little about its consequences for the Chinese in America or for the United States as a nation of immigrants.

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

This is a novel?

About three-quarters of the way through the book, I wanted to know more about Jean Kwok. But the blurb on the back cover revealed only that she had immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong as a child, worked in a garment sweatshop, graduated from Harvard and received an MFA in fiction at Columbia. So why is her first book an autobiography? Then I read the acknowledgements, in which Kwok notes that the book is indeed a novel, based on her own life to date.


Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. (New York: Penguin Press, 2011). 237 pp. ISBN 9781594202841


Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Here's the skinny: I hate this book.

I hate it not for what it is (because I have not yet figured out what it is) but because of what it appears to be.


New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2010. xx, 354 pp.

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Charlie Chan and his fortune-cookie aphorisms, introduced in the immensely popular novels of Earl Derr Biggers beginning in 1925, and later in forty-seven Hollywood movies that featured Caucasian actors with taped-back eyes, presented both positive and negative stereotypes of the Chinese. Mostly, they were positive, showing the Chinese, or at least one Chinese, as astute and intelligent but challenged by English verbs. Among Charlie Chan's philosophical utterances as invented by Biggers, were these:

Deborah Fallows, Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language. New York: Walker & Co., 2010. 205 p. ISBN 978-0-8027-7913-7.

Reviewed by Raymond Lum

Dreaming-in-Chinese-cover_copyCan a billion Chinese be wrong? Contrary to popular myth, Chinese is not an impossibly difficult language to learn. Spoken Chinese is, rather, deceptively simple and is much less complex than English. Consider this: in Chinese, "he" and "she" are the same words; there are no singular or plural forms; there are no verb forms (no past, present, future tenses; the only tense aspect of Chinese is foreigners thinking it's hard); numbers are based on the decimal system, although larger numbers are in groupings of ten thousands; agreement of nouns and verbs is not necessary. "Book have picture" can be singular or plural but is perfectly clear in context, as is "I already went tomorrow at this time."

With delight, I read Speech Insights for Success by my friend, Marlene Schoenberg.  The book is well written, funny, and educational. It raised my awareness of the many interesting aspects of the English language. It offers so many pieces of practical advice on how to do things better, about speaking the language, interacting with people, and about learning in general.

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