Eat Everything Before You Die
A Chinaman in the Counterculture
- PUBLISHED: July 2004
- SUBJECT LISTING: Literature / Fiction, Asian American Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 304 Pages, 6 x 9 in
- ISBN: 9780295984360
In this vibrant and original novel, Christopher Columbus Wong, orphan son of a Chinatown bachelor community, is trying to invent a family for himself while all around him American popular culture is reinventing itself with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. Christopher finds himself on a wild journey with his gay older brother, Peter, a pan-Pacific TV chef; the defrocked, deranged, and eroding ex-director of a Chinatown settlement house, Reverend Ted Candlewick; the sharp-eyed, conspiring matriarch Auntie Mary, the bridge between the conflicting values that make up this cultural stew; and Uncle Lincoln, a bachelor, short order cook, and, quite possibly, Christopher and Peter’s father. Further complicating Christopher’s voyage are his ex-wives: Winnie, a Hong Kong immigrant looking for a green card, and Melba, an American orphan of the counterculture.
Set against the backdrop of America’s wars in Asia and the assimilation of that experience—the refugees, the stereotypes, the food—Eat Everything Before You Die is an ironic commentary on the identities the children of Chinese American immigrants concoct from their questionable histories, cultural practices, and survival strategies.
Chan’s riotous story will appeal to general readers, particularly those interested in the Asian American experience, and will be of strong, enduring interest to students and scholars in Asian American Studies.
A knotty dynamic tale..Chan writes with sumptuous eloquence about food, and the moments in which boundaries between sibling, lover, mother and father shift and break down are deeply moving.- Publishers Weekly
A veritable banquet of images..This anguished and angry search for self will appeal to fans of literary fiction.- Library Journal
Jeffery Paul Chan has clearly set out to write a decades-spanning epic about the immigration experience and the cultural permutations the Bay Area has gone through during the post-war era. And he boasts many of the tools and talents necessary to the task. He has a skeptical eye for human comedy, and a wanton eye for polymorphous sexual entanglements and jealousies. The San Francisco he portrays through his Chinatown lens couldn't be more vivid.- The Seattle Times
What works best in this novel are the fascinating detail and the demands of narratives that intertwine like tendrils of creeping vines.- Choice
Jeffery Chan’s story is humorous, satirical, and at times hilarious. . . but with an understated seriousness that articulates a unique Chinese American sensibility.- Marlon K. Hom, Professor and Chair, Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University
Eat Everything Before You Die is informed by Chan’s extensive knowledge of Asian American literature. The novel references and pays homage to several pioneering works—-most significantly to Louis Chu’s Eat a Bowl of Tea. . . . While Eat a Bowl of Tea concerned itself with the bachelor society in New York City’s Chinatown and Chinese American history, Eat Everything Before You Die works with issues of pop culture, stereotypes, race, identity, and the family society.- Shawn Wong, author of Homebase and American Knees