Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self

Alex Tizon. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-547-45048-3
In this investigation into Asian masculinity, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tizon offers a well-paced, engaging combo of history, memoir, and social analysis. Beginning with a pilgrimage to Cebu in the Philippines, where the conquering European explorer Magellan was killed by the Mactanese, Tizon recounts his troubled past growing up in an America that belittled and erased the complexities of his Asian manhood, and the effect it had on his psyche and his immigrant family (“My parents’ adulation of all things white and Western... was the engine of their self-annihilation”). He interweaves stories of Asian men forgotten or ignored by history, such as Zheng He, a 15th-century Chinese admiral who sailed around the world without the bloodlust of the Europeans who came after, as well as examinations of American attitudes toward Asian men as seen in films such as Harold and Kumar. Passages on self-imposed isolation and attempts to hide or mock his Asianness are visceral and painful. Tizon’s skill as a feature reporter serves the book well, producing a narrative that moves fluidly between subjects, settings, and gazes. Agent: Paul Bresnick, Paul Bresnick Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/10/2014
Release date: 06/10/2014
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