While the wave of robberies targeting Asian Americans in the Sacramento area has declined in some neighborhoods like Oak Park, where police have concentrated resources, crime and fear have increased in other Asian neighborhoods like Meadowview, Fruitridge, and Pocket, to the point where Asian Americans are arming themselves. Police have arrested more than 50 in connection with the targeted robberies (up from 20 reported in October 2016), but the problems have continued. “Part of the issue is the language barrier and not having the right tools to contact Police,” said Sgt Bryce Heinlein. “They’re coming home and being targeted as they’re getting out of their cars, being approached from behind normally, and the suspects are armed.” Elderly people are more likely to be targets, reports John Fan, a detective with Sacramento’s Central division.
Sacramento police have not revealed many details about the arrested suspects, but say that most are young men in their teens and their twenties and are of various racial backgrounds. Almost all are armed during the robberies. In this article where police debriefed the community and gave pointers on avoiding and reporting crimes, police said that the arrested robbers claim that attacks weren’t racially motivated but that “Asians people have money.”
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Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 11: “Big Baby”
Original airdate January 2, 2018.
Synopsis: Honey’s mom (Cheryl Hines!) comes to visit, just in time to cause the newly expectant mother all kinds of stress about their differing approaches to motherhood. Jessica agrees to support Honey, but finds herself more often in agreement with Honey’s mom. Since Jessica and Honey can’t use the free cruise they won on Wheel of Fortune before it expires, Marvin and Louis go instead, Louis determined not to spend any money on what’s supposed to be a free trip. Eddie forms a quick friendship (and maybe more) with Karen (Jane Widdop), a new girl in school, but suspects he’s being yellow fevered, as his new friend’s past boyfriends were Asian and her favorite guitarist is James Iha.
Ooh: It’s not the issues episode I now must admit I prefer, but it does bring up yellow fever with the interesting way this program usually treats the good stuff. When Eddie accuses Karen of only liking him because he’s Asian, she asks, “Do you think it’s weird that all the girls you’ve liked have been white?” Eddie responds that it’s not a preference, but it’s what’s available, which I kind of wish the high-schoolers had taken a moment to work out, but this is the B plot so it’s okay as is. I really like that Eddie actually seems to have blown a chance to form a good friendship when he’s so quick to call yellow fever, treating himself as an object rather than the interesting guy Karen says she was drawn to. But not anymore.
Other lines I liked:
“I’m not ready to be a dad.” (Barefoot Dave when he thinks a dragonfly has laid eggs in his arm)
“My mom likes to tear into a bird when she wakes up.” (Honey)
“I’m just drawn to strong, critical energy.” (Jessica)
“Everybody else’s melon looks happy!” (Honey)
“Bring me back a giant seashell I can blow to summon the kids.” (Jessica)
“That’s a lot of bivalves for one man.” (Marvin)
Ugh: Seriously, is every phase of Honey’s pregnancy going to be a plot element? Because I don’t know if I can take this.
FOB moment: Jessica says, “When I first got pregnant, not only was my mom not here, but I was new to this country. I didn’t know how anything worked. I didn’t have any friends who were moms. I had to figure it out on my own.” I got a bit misty, as Jessica’s story reminds me of my mom, who came to a country where she barely spoke the language, to deal with pregnancy while my father was on a ship in the Pacific. When she fell down some stairs at home, she had to ask a neighbor to get her to a hospital, where the doctors induced labor and gave her a baby six weeks ahead of schedule and five months before that ship returned. I’m grateful Jessica had Louis, who was probably clueless but was undoubtedly doting.
Soundtrack flashback: “Pony” by Ginuwine (1996).
Final grade, this episode: It’s 2018 in our time, which means now it’s 1998 in FoTB time. With this episode, FoTB has given us three full seasons’ worth of episodes (it was a midseason replacement when it debuted), a pretty nice accomplishment. I can barely take all the pregnancy talk in this episode (I know every child is unique and I know every pregnancy is each expectant mother’s own story, but to a middle-aged bachelor, these stories all sound the same!) and the Marvin-Louis story isn’t even worth remembering, but that yellow fever plot makes it all better than tolerable. B.
To be honest, I had not heard of March Fong Eu prior to reading about her passing, but she indeed sounds like a pioneering Asian American & Californian politician that broke many ceilings:
“March Fong Eu liked to tell constituents that she was “born behind a Chinese laundry,” and it wasn’t far from the truth.
Eu’s parents ran a hand-wash laundry in Oakdale, a modest town in the San Joaquin Valley where — at the time — a girl of Chinese descent might well have thought twice about dreaming too big.
But Eu climbed the rungs of education, plowed through the high brush of politics and became the first Chinese American to hold a constitutional office in California when she was elected secretary of state, the first woman to hold that office.
A potent symbol of womanhood and persistence through her life, Eu died Thursday following surgery after falling at her home in Irvine, said Caren Lagomarsino, Eu’s longtime spokeswoman. She was 95.”
Eu was in elected office long before I moved to California in August of 1999:
“After first serving four terms in the state Assembly from 1966 to 1974, Eu rode into the headlines with her populist campaign to ban pay toilets from public buildings, which she said symbolized the second-class treatment of women who would be left fumbling for pocket change in their purses just to use a bathroom.
She received the highest vote total ever at that time for a statewide politician to become the state’s chief elections officer and keeper of business and archival records. She was unbeatable in the next four elections.
During her nearly 20-year tenure, Eu instituted voter registration by mail and got federal approval of legislation allowing voters to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies.
Eu technically became the state’s first female governor — if only for a day — in 1976, when all the other state officials in the line of succession were out of California.
In 1988, midway through her fourth term, Eu sought the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate, hoping to become the first woman to serve as a California senator. However, she withdrew because she did not wish to disclose the financial holdings of her wealthy second husband, Henry Eu, a Singapore businessman.
Four years later, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer were elected the first two female California senators.
Toward the end of her fifth term as secretary of state, Eu resigned when President Clinton named her ambassador to the Pacific nation of Micronesia, a post she held for two years until 1996.”
She sounded like an amazing woman and am surprised I had not heard about her, much like how I did not hear about Patsy Mink until watching a documentary about her. I couldn’t find much about Eu on YouTube and hope that someone makes a documentary about her. Some additional background information about Eu:
“Before her tenure in Sacramento, Eu worked for years in local politics around the Bay Area. A former dental hygienist, she served on the Alameda County school board in the 1950s and as president of the Americans Dental Hygienests Association. She earned degrees from UC Berkeley, Mills College and Stanford, and was elected to represent Oakland and parts of Castro Valley in the state Assembly, where she served four terms.
Born to Chinese immigrants in Oakdale in 1922, she grew up in the back of a laundry. To Lagomarsino and others who knew Eu, this made her rise to political success all the more impressive.”
With the recent and sudden passing of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, there has been some speculation as to who may run for mayor in a special election in 2018. Well, we now know at least one candidate, and that is current San Francisco Board of Supervisor (District 6), Jane Kim:
“The upcoming mayor’s race has its newest major candidate: Supervisor Jane Kim, who pulled papers to run for mayor Wednesday from the Department of Elections.
“You’re not going to ask me why I’m here?” Kim jokingly asked department staff Wednesday morning, who have been anticipating rumored mayoral hopefuls.
Her June 2018 mayoral run would see her go toe-to-toe against former state Sen. Mark Leno, former Supervisor Angela Alioto, homeless advocate Amy Farrah Weiss and other filed candidates. Rumored candidates who have yet to file include Acting Mayor London Breed, Supervisors Mark Farrell, Assemblymember David Chiu and City Attorney Dennis Herrera.”
To be honest, until reading this article, I didn’t realize the field was already this crowded! I don’t live in San Francisco proper nor follow the politics there that closely, so I don’t have an idea as to how well Kim is positioned in the special election.
I first met Kim through a mutual friend (and fellow 8Asians.com blogger) when Kim first ran for San Francisco Board of Education back in 2004 (she came in 7th place, out of 12 candidates, for 4 seats). I remember attending her kick-off campaign event in 2010 when Kim first ran for supervisor, and was pretty touched as she described her immigrant background. And in awe when Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed and campaigned for Kim for California State Senate.
While I don’t necessarily agree with Kim politically on everything, but I certainly wish her the best of luck in running. With Mayor Ed Lee being San Francisco’s first Asian American and Chinese American mayor, I think it would be terrific if Kim made history by being the first Asian American and Korean American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco.
When I woke up the Tuesday morning of December 12th, I was shocked to see on Facebook that San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee had died suddenly of an apparent heart attack (now since confirmed). I was saddened that Mayor Lee had died so young, at age 65, and so unexpectedly.
I didn’t grow up in San Francisco and personally didn’t really know Ed Lee until he was appointed Mayor of San Francisco after then Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected Lt. Governor of California and vacated his office. I liked the fact that Lee had pledged NOT to run for mayor as a condition of being appointed mayor, and was very disappointed when he did run, since I was for an up-and-comer like then San Francisco Board of Supervisor David Chiu.
But I was certainly proud of the fact that San Francisco had finally had its first Asian American/Chinese American mayor, given the fact that San Francisco is over 30% Asian. I had attended many different political and other city-related events and had seen Mayor Ed Lee many times. He was always civil, friendly and most importantly, accessible and looking out for the best interests of San Francisco and San Franciscans. For most of his time working for the City of San Francisco, he was a quiet, behind-the-scenes “bureaucrat” (in a good way) working for the good of the city.
From Mayor Lee’s Wikipedia entry, a summary of Lee’s professional accomplishments prior to being appointed mayor and then elected twice as mayor:
“After Lee completed law school and received his Juris Doctor degree from UC Berkeley School of Law, he worked as managing attorney for the San Francisco Asian Law Caucus, where he was an advocate for affordable housing and the rights of immigrants and renters. In 1989, Mayor Art Agnos appointed Lee to be the city’s first investigator under the city’s whistleblower ordinance. Agnos later appointed him deputy director of human relations. In 1991, he was hired as executive director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, serving in that capacity under Mayors Agnos, Frank Jordan, and Willie Brown. Brown appointed him director of city purchasing, where, among other responsibilities, he ran the city’s first Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprise program.
In 2000, he was appointed director of public works for the city, and in 2005 was appointed by Mayor Newsom to a five-year term as city administrator, to which he was reappointed in 2010. As city administrator, Lee oversaw the reduction of city government and implemented the city’s first ever ten-year capital plan.“
Mayor Ed Lee at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina
I think Ed Lee was most disliked for the passing of a “Twitter tax break” and seemingly favoring business over the working class, which appeared to contradict his entire upbringing. But personally, after reading more about the issue of the tax break – it made no sense to me that San Francisco included stock options as part of its payroll tax calculations if all the other cities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley were not.
Mayor Ed Lee at a Golden State Warriors press conference/game
The biggest issue Lee had to contend with, in my opinion, during his tenure was the cost of living in San Francisco, specifically housing and the consequences of it (homelessness). If you want a backgrounder on the housing crisis, you should read this TechCrunch article. Basically, the past 5 to 10 years, job growth has really surpassed housing construction and mass transit sucks in the Bay Area. But it’s definitely complicated.
Mayor Ed Lee speaking at a Vincent Chin related event
Unfortunately, over that weekend when Lee’s memorial occurred, I already had plans out-of-town and could not pay my respects in person.
However, I had a chance to watch about 30 minutes of Mayor Ed Lee’s memorial service, and was touched by the words his daughters spoke, as well as others including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Lt. Governor Newsom. My thoughts are with Lee’s wife and daughters and extended family.
I hope that Mayor Ed Lee’s service to the city of San Francisco serves as a role model and encourages Asian Americans to consider a life in public service.
Once on This Island, now playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre (W. 50th), is an utter delight. Your heart will swell and weep and swell again before the night’s over. The musical, set on a Caribbean island, follows Ti Moune, a young girl who’s fallen in love with someone from the other side of the island. Kept apart by class and culture, Ti Moune is guided by the gods on a remarkable journey. An amazing and diverse cast is captivating and engaging. And there’s a live goat on stage to boot.
I first heard about this revival because of Lea Salonga, who plays one of the gods. If you don’t already know who she is, I’m not going to tell you, except to say that I would see her in anything. But as amazing as she is, the whole cast of Once On This Island really blew me away. From the debut performances of Haley Kilgore playing Ti Moune (girl, those vocal cords are no joke) and Isaac Powell as her love Daniel, to Alex Newell’s blow the house down number “Mama Will Provide” and the tenor that hums in your soul from Quentin Earl Darrington, to the “Storytellers” who round out the cast.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 10: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
Original airdate December 12, 2017.
Synopsis: Deirdre’s college roomie Holly (it’s Paula Abdul!) is visiting, and since she’s a “performance and movement” instructor, she offers to coach the homeowners’ association carolers. Jessica (who still takes Christmas very seriously) doesn’t think most of her neighbors sing very well, so she insists that Holly conduct tryouts, limiting this year’s group to six participants. Although Jessica sings very well and does a great audition, Holly doesn’t include her in the group because Jessica doesn’t have enough Christmas spirit.
Louis and Honey have fallen in love with Titanic, and since they can’t get their familes to join them at the cinema, they go together. Marvin is suspicious of Honey, since she promised to save Titanic for when they can watch it together at home on video.
In the best thing about the episode, Nicole asks Eddie to meet her at a cafe, where she’s crushing on Jackie, one of the baristas. Nicole doesn’t know how to approach her (It’s Diamond White, from season two of The X Factor), so Eddie tries to help her out. In a silly gag, Emery and Alison each pop out of nowhere when it’s convenient for the story, each eager to help Nicole as well.
Right On: The Nicole story is really sweet, and I love the way her three friends help her out with every indication that Nicole’s crush being a girl is no big deal. The over-caffeinated gag is kind of dumb, but the strategy of using coffee cups to get attention is cute. I know I’m not alone in trying to read into the little things the cute baristas at my local cafe write on my cups!
Some lines I enjoyed:
“I can taste the laziness. We all can!” (Jessica)
“Did you hear me ascend the ladder? I climbed up over Celine — I stepped on the shoulders of that French Canadian angel and I kissed the heavens!” (Jessica)
“That kind of negative energy is toxic to a group. Just look what happened to Oasis!” (Holly)
Bogus: The Honey-Marvin-Louis story is soooooo dumb. It adds nothing to this episode, and while I love the cultural references, there must be something better to do with this. If it’s all a setup for the baby announcement, it’s even dumber. Honestly, although I love (love!) Honey, I don’t think anyone really cares whether she’s having a baby or not. In the context of this show, it’s kind of meaningless. And I hate to say this, but everyone knows that one of the truest signs of a shark-jump in a TV sitcom is the introduction of new kid characters because the original kids are growing up. Is there one show that got better when new kids were added? Please don’t let this be Cousin Oliver Syndrome.
FOB moment: The return of Chinese Santa, in flashback and as a disguise for Louis.
Soundtrack flashback: “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler (1983, sung by Evan). “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion (1997, sung by Jessica).
Final grade, this episode: This episode is saved by a solid Deirdre presence and the kids in the cafe. Otherwise it’s annoying, and I am normally a sucker for Christmas episodes on sitcoms. Add the gratuitous group carol as the closing credits close, and yeesh. C+.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
…Asians finally became a key part of the STAR WARS saga.
TL;DR: The Tico Sisters rock my galaxy.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI opens in U.S. theaters on December 15, and in this installment of “Episode VIII,” we finally get to meet mechanic Rose Tico, played by actress Kelly Marie Tran.
I say “finally” because it has been more than 2 years since the infamous Comic-Con Q&A where Ryan and Corinne asked J.J. Abrams point-blank if there would be Asians in STAR WARS (see video and transcript in John’s original post).
And it has been over a year since Kelly Marie Tran was announced as a key member of the cast.
While there have been a number of other Asian faces in minor roles in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Episode VII), Tran’s character– Rose Tico– is the kind of character who has the storyline and screen time that has previously only been seen in other STAR WARS films with other ethnicities, droids, or aliens of different kinds.
It’s actually because of her sister, Paige Tico (actress Veronica Ngo), that we actually meet Rose. But hey, I said there would be no spoilers here, so all you need to know is that both sisters are awesome and even if you’re not Asian, you might feel like cheering for them when they’re on screen.
Sorry to disappoint, if you’re here for an actual real review with no spoilers, this is all you get right now. I do think it’s worth it to go to the theater and see Tran and Ngo on the big screen, because aside from them, there are some fights and battles and stuff. In space… ooops, did I say too much? I will say that it is absolutely exhilarating to see an Asian American face on-screen with such a meaningful storyline and with some actual character development. And if you care about the non-Asians in that universe, yeah they’re there, too.
I’ll end this post with some of my favorite pictures from the world premiere which was held in Los Angeles, where stars Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro were joined by writer/director Rian Johnson and producers Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman for a walk down the red carpet where they greeted enthusiastic fans at the world premiere of Lucasfilm’s STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI.
I haven’t seen this television commercial yet, but a friend sent me this link after he saw this Samsung Galaxy Note 8 commercial while watching an NFL football game on a Sunday evening on NBC:
“There’s a new way to share how you feel with Live Message on the new Samsung Galaxy Note8.”
After some research, I discovered this commercial debuted during the most recent Emmy Awards.
This is one of the rare commercials that highlights an Asian American male romantic lead in an inter-racial relationship with a white woman. As I’ve often mentioned, I think McDonald’s “Egg McMuffin of Boyfriends” commercial was the first one that caught my I that I blogged about.
Overall, I really like the commercial. It’s very cute in a hopeless romantic kind of way and is effective in showing a feature of the phone that I never knew about. The actress and commercial kind of reminds me of the Zooey Deschanel and the movie (500) Days of Summer, and the commercial’s song is kind of catchy (Peggy Lee’s Similau (See-Me-Lo) 1949). Can’t find any info on the actor …
From the YouTube comments, someone identified the actress as Cyrina Fiallo, and apparently has done quite a few commercials from a quick Google search.
The second most liked comment on YouTube was: “What kind of psychopath uses a $800 device without a case.” which I thought was hilarious – because it’s true!
During opening weekend, I took my daughter to see the new Disney/Pixar movie, Coco. It’s a movie she’s been looking forward to seeing for almost a year, since the trailers for the new movie came out quite some time ago. I didn’t have much expectations for the movie, as I figured it would be similar to a previous animated film, Book of Life, another film centered around Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. But the movie is completely different, and definitely worth a viewing. As I watched the film Coco with my 12 year old, I began to realize that many of the practices and beliefs that were being practiced by the Mexican families were similar if not identical to many practices that we performed for my deceased ancestors as a Chinese/Taiwanese immigrant family in the United States.
Before I make the comparisons, I’ll remind readers that discussing the dead, or customs and practices around death is generally considered taboo in Chinese culture. But I have previously broken this taboo by writing about Chinese funerary customs, so I’ll wander again into dangerous waters. If you’re from a Chinese family, you might want to refrain from talking about this topic with the elders in your family. In fact ghosts and the supernatural are generally still considered forbidden topics in mainland China, and it was a surprise that Coco made it past Chinese censors without any edits.
One of the major Chinese holidays is also known as 盂蘭節 or Ghost Festival. The holiday is sometimes called Chinese Halloween, and is very similar to the Mexican Day of the Dead. I remember when I was growing up, that my mom would set up an altar on major Chinese holidays, like the Ghost Festival, and the center of the altar would have the photographs of the deceased ancestors. We would burn incense, and joss paper and lay out food offerings, typically oranges and cooked rice with other dishes for the deceased, so they would have food and money in the afterlife. We would eat the food it had been left out for a long time, long enough for the deceased to partake their portion of the food. It’s common for Chinese to burn paper replicas of cars, boats, houses, etc. for the deceased to have these things in the afterlife.
Similarly on the Day of the Dead, in Coco, there’s a strong importance to having the photograph of the family ancestor placed in the family ofrenda. The belief in Coco, is that if your photograph is not in the family ofrenda, you won’t be able to pass over on the Day of the Dead to visit your relatives. You’re essentially forgotten. In Coco, if you’re forgotten, your spirit will disappear from the afterlife and cease to exist when the last person who remembers you dies in the real world.
Similar to Chinese culture, the Mexicans lay out food for the deceased, so they’ll have food in the afterlife. The amount of food the deceased have in the afterlife varies by how much they were remembered and offered food in the real world. So a popular singer, like the character Ernesto de la Cruz in the movie Coco, had an abundance of food in the afterlife from all his devoted living fans, while Hector, who was forgotten had none.
By the end of the movie, these similarities between the two cultures got me wondering if they arose from the same source. My guess is yes, since at the end of the movie Coco, there was a disclaimer saying the beliefs around the Day of the Dead, had roots in Mexican and indigenous peoples. And with the knowledge that indigenous peoples traveled from Asia to settle in the Americas, I think we’re fairly safe in assuming these beliefs have a common beginning.
In case you haven’t seen Coco yet, won’t spoil any more of the movie for you, but I will say it’s one of the best kids movies I’ve seen in a while, and well worth the price of admission.
Fresh Off the Boat, Season 4, Episode 9: “Slide Effect”
Original airdate December 5, 2017.
Synopsis: Eddie’s friends each sign up for school activities. Trent’s the newest member of the Safety Patrol, while the others get into the school play, the book club, and the cheerleading team. Eddie doesn’t like the image they project, and when Trent writes him up for breaking the dress code, he pushes back in order to cultivate what he hopes is his bad boy persona. This impresses the second-coolest group on campus, a trio of “hackers,” older guys who play Hacky Sack.
Jessica’s working on proofs for her novel, A Case of a Knife to the Brain, which is apparently set for publication. She can’t handle the pressure of being on the edge of her dreams’ realization while the prospect of failure remains in place. The stress extends to selecting an author’s photo for her book jacket, and Honey volunteers to photograph her.
Way: Yay for an episode that doesn’t try to cram everyone into a story. Louis, Emery, and Evan are background players here, and Grandma’s not in the episode at all. It’s okay! It’s been four seasons. We know who the Huangs are and we don’t have to see them deeply involved in every episode. It makes for better storytelling, especially since Eddie and Jessica are the best characters.
Trent comes to the door in a robe, with a towel wrapped around his head, and holding a plate of Oreos, saying, “I don’t want you to see me like this.” It’s one of a few laugh-aloud moments. And thank goodness for a high-school principal who doesn’t seem like a cartoon. The Louis gag where he’s on the phone with pollsters is funny, and the payoff in the last one, where he’s speaking to Grandma on the phone, is borderline hilarious.
No way: Nothing much to complain about. I didn’t enjoy the Rent/Brent bit, but that’s more because of awkwardness than any transgression in storytelling.
FOB moment: “I guess it’s true. Asian dads don’t say I love you.”
Soundtrack flashback: A parody of “Bad Boys” by Inner Circle (1987) where the refrain goes “Good boys, good boys; whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they friends with you?” “The Distance” by Cake (1996). And a parody of “Seasons of Love” from Rent (1996).
That Cake song brings back a ton of memories of my first year as a teacher. I bought the Fashion Nugget album in the year between my undergraduate studies and the beginning of my teaching career, and I discovered that it was very good music to listen to on endless repeat while grading endless papers. That was a rough, lonely year (you have no idea what a first-year teacher goes through unless you lived it or were married to someone who lived it), and I will always be grateful to Cake for helping me through.
A few days after my review for the last episode, someone named Taint Kirk messaged me on FB and said the mystery Gwar song was “Penguin Attack,” which I said I would confirm but still haven’t. I accidentally deleted the episode, so it’s going to take a bit before I do. But shout-out and thank you either way!
Final grade, this episode: Honestly, it was kind of a boring episode despite its pleasant tone and Nice Guy Eddie. B.
Maggie Shen King’s debut novel An Excess Male is a thrilling ride through a dystopia future where there is many more than one excess male. Some time in the not so distant future, China has so many men, that families include multiple husbands–husbands who must compete in an ultra-competitive, dowry-driven market to ever get married at all.
The novel follows four main characters, shifting perspectives with each chapter. The first is Wei-guo, a bachelor who has finally saved up enough to wed, but only as a third husband. The other three are the family of Hann, his brother XX, and their wife May-Ling. All four are caught up in the regulations governing society: the Willfully Sterile (registered homosexuals who are forbidden from marriage and other relationships), the Lost Boys (men with developmental disabilities who are also forbidden from marriage), detailed marriage contracts, a system where families pay doctors under the table to have girls so they can make money–a particular breed of social engineering that feels within the realm of possibility. The novel slowly unfolds the facets of this uneasy society as tensions mount and each of the four must make life-changing decisions about their futures, either together or apart. An Excess Male provokes questions of morality and rights, liberty and love, family and loyalty, but in a fast-paced drama. It’s quick, enjoyable read that dives into a smartly-conceived and imaginative future where all is not as it seems.