Allisonperkel's Reviews > The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food

The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee
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's review
Jul 05, 2009

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bookshelves: humor, history, food, non-fiction
Read in July, 2009

"Fortune Cookie" really is several books in one, with the idea of fortune cookies coming back to somewhat tie the stories of the book together. however, the stories, while related, do not feel connected leaving me with the feeling that the parts are greater than the whole.

I can tell from reading this book that Ms Lee will eventually become a writer I will love to read however she isn't quite there yet. In fortune cookie she was able to write an emotional, heart wrenching chapter on Chinese human smuggling and the price of life in America. Her chapter on going to Japan in search of the fortune cookie was also fun and whimsical. The story of the family who bought a Chinese restaurant will break your heart. But then you'd have to wade through her chapter on Jews and Chinese food which felt forced and clichéd. Or her search for the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world which truly was not enjoyable to read due to it being cliché in every single sense of the word.

And then you have the fortune cookie which supposedly ties the book together. Again, this felt a little forced, especially when she was writing about the lucky numbers and the lottery. However at other times you could begin to see how this little cookie related to Chinese in America. This was particularly true when she found out that the fortune cookie originated in Japan, was brought to the US by Japanese and then, during the Japanese interment it was the Chinese who gave it popularity.

Its that last theme that Ms Lee comes back to, several times. She never overplays it; she let's her statements remain subtle, unspoken really. To me, this worked, it helped bring home what happened without hitting the reader over the head.

The book is a quick, fun light read that is worthy of a beach or plane flight or just a distraction from the everyday. I know I learned some interesting trivia on American Chinese food, the Chinese diaspora, and a little about myself as well. If I could give this 3.5 stars, I would.
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