Monday, September 17, 2007

Asian American Chick Lit

I'm in the middle of reading the second of Kim Wong Keltner's Asian American chick lit books, this one called Buddha Baby. The first, Dim Sum of All Things, followed the adventures of 20-something Chinese American, San Francisco born and bred Lindsey Owyang. Neither is very good. As in, bad writing. As in, bad chick lit writing. The writer uses extended metaphors and similes in every paragraph and a lot of them are cheesy. The characters are relatively two-dimensional, and basically, it's just not good writing--the prose is not singing off the page, but rather, clunking off the page.

So why am I reading it? Well, there's this odd tension in the book--it seems to want to be chick lit and yet it also wants to be this self-consciously reflective piece of social justice and Asian American activism. It contains a little Chinese American history lesson in its pages, and a larger Asian American consciousness that does feel reminiscent of some of the better Asian American literature out there. It's this weird hybrid form, and actually, for that reason, I feel it's not successful--because it just doesn't know what it wants to be.

Or maybe, it's just bad writing, I mean what do you do with a passage like this:

"She was like an early Californian panning for gold, believing in her right to discover buried secrets. However, the strong current of verbal reticence that invisibly gripped the nearly dried-up Owyang riverbed hardly ever yielded a shiny pebble of insight" (Keltner 76).

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