Karissa's Reviews > The Collective

The Collective by Don  Lee
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's review
Aug 01, 2012

really liked it
Read in August, 2012

I have an uncomfortable relationship to "Asian American literature", and find myself often steering clear of it, worried it will be the same familiar stuff. But The Collective was refreshing and validating for an Asian American writer such as myself. It was a weird sort of meta feeling I got, reading this book, a book about Asian American artists struggling with the questions I have as an Asian American artist, or as an Asian American, period -- Do I have to write about Asians? How do I strike a balance so that I'm neither too complacent nor too zealous? -- while also discussing the difficulties of being an artist -- Do I have what it takes? Am I a fraud? -- and realizing that these questions were being explored and their possibilities depicted IN A PIECE OF ART. I read in an interview with Don Lee once that a young Asian student of his once asked him if he (the student) had to write about Asians. Don responded, "No, because I'm doing that for you." What I loved about this book (clear prose and a great balance of hilarity and tragedy aside) is that it is a book that I probably would never have written myself, yet it was a book that spoke to me and told me I didn't NEED to write a book like that. That being said, the book is also so well-written, the characters so well-rendered (you kind of hate them sometimes but also really sympathize with them), and parts of the story evoked all kinds of serious emotion in me, from rage to sadness. Really loved it. Thank you, Don.
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Juan I'm reading this book now and everything you said in your review is exactly 'nail on the head' for me too. This is my third Don Lee book and each one reminds that, as an Asian American writer, I need not write about the 'same old, same old' stories of Asian Am strife and assimilation but, rather, to write Asian Ams as regular people because, ultimately, that's all any of us - black, white, yellow, brown - are.

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