Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Plant Your Feet Firmly by Marie Chow

When I saw the term "Asian-American" in the book description, I immediately requested it. Although I'm not an ABC (American Born Chinese), I'm a Singaporean-Chinese. So I do have an interest in the other groups. After all, Asian-Americans and non-Mainland Chinese are rather different from each other (and from Mainland Chinese, and Hong Kong-ers and Taiwanese), so I was really interested in learning more about them.

Since this is an anthology, I decided to review them separately, looking at:
a. How much I enjoyed it
b. How 'Asian-American' it was.

Cosmetics - Basically a series of letters from a grandfather to his granddaughter. I must admit, while I thought the grandfather was adorable, I didn't understand how this relates to Asian-Americans. The most is the mention of "Orientals" vs "Asian Americans". It seems more to be a work of grandfatherly-granddaughterly bond and technology.

Mothers and Wives - Again, I don't see the Asian American connection here (are the protagonists even of Asian descent?). I did enjoy the look into the lives of three very different women though, as they gossip about their friend, and reflect on their past.

Something Positive, Something Encouraging - The wife is Asian, so yay! But this book is basically about a guy as he contemplates an affair/how he came really close to an affair, because his marriage seems to be breaking down. I suppose it's a look at inter-ethnic marriages.

Plant Your Feet Firmly, On Two Moving Boats - The titular story, and the one I enjoyed the most. It's an interesting look at the life of an Asian American, in all its complexity. It reminded me of the movie It's a Mad Mad Mad World 2. The list form that it's written in seems particularly appropriate.

Eulogy - After Plant Your Feed Firmly, this was sort of a let down. I didn't understand the point of the story. It seems to be people reacting to the death of another person, but... I don't get it. The second person narrative doesn't help either. It didn't seem particularly Asian-American

Laughter - The second marriage story. It doesn't seem Asian-American related in any way. I don't really like either person in this marriage, and I had a hard time feeling sympathy or connecting with them.

The Fourth Player - A story with a lot of potential. It looks at an eccentric Chinese lady (from Mainland China, but escaped to Taiwan), who makes up the fourth person in a mahjong group. Told through the eyes of her nosy group mates, the story only hints at the complexities in the family. I wish this story was elaborated (perhaps into a novel), because it holds the potential for a lot of depth. As it is now, it barely scratches the surface.

All in all, most of the stories do not seem connected to the Asian-American community. The Mad Mad Mad World movies (movies two and later) are probably a better (although dated) option. If this book was merely marketed as an anthology (although I'm not sure with what sort of theme, since they all seem rather disparate), I would have enjoyed it more, but as it is, I was let down by the absence of Asian-American themes.

Disclaimer: I got this review from the author via BookBlogging in exchange for a free and honest review.

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