Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections on Creating the Online Reading Guide

In the comments of this blog post, please write a short reflection about what you observed about writing, learning, literature, audience, communication, reading, teaching, and anything else that you would like to say about creating this collaborative document. (I've enabled anonymous comments if you'd rather comment that way).

Write whatever you'd like, but if you need some questions, one of these may help:

  1. How was this assignment different from others you've done before?
  2. What did you like about this assignment? What worked well? What could use work?
  3. What did you learn that you surprised you? What did you discover? What was illuminated about reading or writing? What were your thoughts about this assignment at the beginning of the semester and how have they changed throughout the course of this work?
  4. How did this assignment help you to think about writing and reading in a new way? Or if it didn't, say more about that. 
  5. What did you think about the author visit? What happened that made you think about the book, about writing, or about writers in a new way?
  6. What did you learn about collaborative writing? About writing or editing in general?
  7. If someone else was doing a similar assignment (creating a collaborative online reader's guide in a college course) what advice would you give them?
  8. Any feedback at all on this assignment would be appreciated. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reading Guide to Fall of the I-Hotel: 1971 by Michael

Reading Guide to Fall of the I-Hotel: 1971 by Michael

1971: Aiiieeeee! Hotel

Chapter 1: Outlaws

Discussion Questions:

How is this story relevant to the time period of the chapter?

Were the situations and results which Iron Ax encountered justified?

Synopsis: The narrator introduces us to the idea of outlaws. There are 108 of them, and these are people who live for murder, crime, and disaster. The narrator makes multiple references to both weapons and jazz instruments, objects which are used almost interchangeably throughout this section of the book. The narrator begins telling the tale of Iron Ox, one of the 108 bandits, presumably one of the more ruthless ones. The tale begins with Iron Ox crying, because he is not allowed to visit his poor mother. The chief outlaw, Timely Rain, tells Iron Ox he is allowed to visit his mother, but he must follow three rules. One, he mustn’t drink wine, two, he must go alone, and three, he must leave behind his two signature axes. On his journey, Iron Ox runs into a man who claims to be him and asks for money. Iron Ax quickly defeats him, but spares his life when he discovers the imposter is simply trying to earn money for his poor mother. Later, he stops in a house for food, but discovers it is the house of the imposter, and he had lied about the poor mother. Iron Ox kills the man, but the wife escapes. Iron Ox continues his journey, and finds his mother. He begins to bring his mother home with him, but stops to get her some water. When he returns with the water, he finds tiger cubs gnawing at his mother’s limbs. She’s been ripped to pieces by them. Iron Ox, in a rage, kills the cubs and their parents. He tells this to some hunters he runs into, and they take him to a wealthy bureaucrat to celebrate his victory. He forgets his promise, and drinks wine until he passes out. The wife of the man he killed earlier calls the police. He is arrested, but Timely Rain has sent another bandit to watch after Iron Ox, who aids him in his escape. Iron Ox then proceeds to kill everyone. The police chief, Black-Eyed Tiger joins the outlaws and leaves with Iron Ox. Throughout the story, the narrator comments on the events which are unfolding, and at times, relates them to more modern times.

Chapter 2: Theater of Double Ax

Discussion Questions:

What Asian American struggles does Yamashita highlight in this chapter?

What is the significance of the characters Yamashita listed in the character list?

What is the significance of the dancers?

Synopsis: The narrator from the last chapter mentions how intense the last story was, and goes on to recite a poem about how strong and manly poetry is. The format shifts into a play, with the acts called “Ax”. The character list is filled with famous pairs involving Asians, who do not actually appear in this chapter. The location is listed as “Asian America (where’s that?)” and the time is 1971. The narrator tells us of Pa, a man who has 5 sets of Siamese twins, the final one being a boy and girl. The scene starts with Pa working at his shop, speaking to his customer. They talk about how the youth is growing up confused about whether they should become more American, or retain their Chinese origins. An act interlude begins in a coffee house in Chinatown, where the Council of Third World Liberation Front. Various representatives of different races sit around, discussing how many positions they are going to request. Some members of the group think the Asians should only have one representative amongst them, but the different Asians insist on having separate representatives. A Chinese man enters the room, pulls out an ax from under the table, and chops the table to shreds. They quickly finish the meeting, agreeing to give each Asian group their own representatives. Act two then begins. Act two involves two dancers, one the narrator, in a jazz club. They sing a capella as they wait for their jazz ensemble to set up. The ladies begin dancing with different weapons in their hands. With each dance, they invite men to come onto the stage and lie on the floor. They tell the men they are now hostages. After the final dance, the women place pieces of sushi on the men’s chests, and use samurai swords to slice the sushi in half, leaving the men unharmed.

Chapter 3: Liang Shan Po, California

Discussion questions:

Why do you think the child’s parents had to leave the boy with a white family? Did they make the right choice?

What does the narrator have against the story?

Synopsis: A young boy, who is said in the introductions to eventually become a great outlaw, is found in the Golden Mountain, being raised by a poor white family. The white woman raising the boy is in the kitchen, cooking something. The man raising him returns, and tells the woman that the Asian child’s parents have given him another envelope containing money. They call the child Chinaboy the entire time. We find out today is his birthday, and that the woman is baking the boy a cake. We find out these two have been raising this five years old boy since he was a baby, and that he is not the first boy that they have raised. Before him, they raised someone named Jimmy. Several months pass, and a couple arrives to take the child. The boy, afraid of them, and the foreign language they speak, tries to hide. The white couple convinces him to get in the car, but before he does, the woman slips the red envelopes she has been getting from his parents into his pocket, telling him it belongs to him. The narrator cuts in, and speaks about what a cliché, boring story this is. The narrator then talks about how the white people may have been abusive, dishonest, bigoted, and terrible people, but then reminds us that all outlaws are bound for glory, and they all have their starts.

Chapter 4: War & Peace

Discussion questions:

Who are the people in the pictures?

What are they supposed to represent, if anything?

Synopsis: A series of pictures shows two people, a brother and a sister, as they progress through time, growing older. Each picture has a different name, and a different background, and a few of them have Chinese characters under them.

Chapter 5: Sax & Violence

Discussion Question:

Was Gerald justified in his protest actions, or did he deserve jail?

Synopsis: This chapter follows Gerald K. Li, a musician who has just gotten out of jail for protesting against the administration of San Francisco State College. Gerald is the boyfriend of Sandy Hu, who was one of the dancers in the second chapter. With him, Gerald is carrying two saxophones, an alto and a tenor. Gerald is conveniently seated next to the president of San Francisco State College on a flight. He speaks to him about jazz, and the two men try to one up each other on their knowledge of the topic. The plane arrives at its destination, and the president offers Gerald a ride into the city, which Gerald accepts. The two speak about the school, and the trouble it has been facing. Eventually, Gerald asks the president if he can remove him from probation so he can resume classes. The president asks why he is on probation, and Gerald admits he was arrested for trying to protect a girl while protesting against the school. The conversation quickly escalates into an argument. We are given a flashback to Gerald in prison. He has a friend there, La Van, who manages to get him into a private cell. Back in current times, the president begins driving recklessly due to his argument, and Gerald begins smoking marijuana in the car. The two begins calling each other offensive names, and eventually, the president, enraged, kicks him out of the car and drives off. The scene cuts to Gerald playing jazz with his band, including Sandy Hu. Then, we return to the present again. The president has returned to Gerald, an undetermined amount of time later, and tosses Gerald’s luggage out of the car. His possessions are scattered everywhere on the street.

Chapter 6: Chiquita Banana

Discussion Questions:

Why did Yamashita choose a banana for the mother?

What is the significance of the names of the characters in this chapter?

Synopsis: This chapter is done in the form of a comic strip. Chiquita Banana, an anthropomorphic banana, has Siamese twin daughters. Chiquita’s lover, Don Juan Samuel, has been pimping out the daughters, in exchange for drugs and good grades. Both twins have poor self-esteem, and want to do more with themselves. The daughters complain to Chiquita, because one is losing her hard edge by the good grades, and the other is losing her work ethic because of the drugs, so Chiquita decides to put an end to things. She invites her lover over, and pulls a gun on him. But he turns the gun on her, and kills her. Chiquita’s sister, Mulan Rouge arrives, and slices Don Juan in half. She then splits the twins from each other.

Chapter 7: Doppelgangsters

Discussion questions:

Why did Gerald take the bartenders place?

Which of the men which Gerald ran into do you think was really his doppelganger?

What was the purpose of the poetry in this chapter?

Synopsis: Gerald tells his boss, Jack Sung, that he is giving up drugs, booze, and women, and decides to take a journey to make things up to his mother. A strong parallel is drawn between Gerald and Iron Ox in this chapter. His saxophones are even referred to as axes. In order to begin this journey, Gerald steals a car and some money from his girlfriend, Sandy Hu. He remembers his promise, and passes on taking alcohol and drugs. On his journey, he runs into a man who is carrying two black cases, and has a conversation with him. The man introduces himself as Gerald K. Li. He claims his “axes” are in the case. Gerald says the man cannot be Gerald, as he is white, while the real Gerald is Chinese. The man replies that whites can be Chinese, but Chinese cannot be white. Gerald begins to wonder if this man really is the Chinese version of himself. He finds out how much the man made at a gig, which is way more than Gerald ever makes, and decides to rob him. There is a poem about two martial arts forms, one called Hung Gar, the other Pa Kwa. The man only has $10 on him, so Gerald also takes his instrument cases as collateral. He arrives at a diner, where a fellow Chinese man recognizes him. He says that people call him the Gerald K. Li of the area, and convinces Gerald to play a show at the local club. The man is unable to get a large crowd for Gerald, and we are given another martial arts poem. Gerald does not mind that not many people went to the show, and even gives the local man one of the cases he took from his imposter. Gerald checks into a hotel and opens the remaining instrument case, and discovers it is filled with cocaine. We are told by the narrator that the local man Gerald gave the first case to will be arrested for drug possession and for assaulting the man Gerald stole the case from. Gerald continues his journey by entering a bar, where he finds a man who looks identical to him. This man confuses Gerald for his twin, a poet who has done illegal things, and tells him he is ready to switch places with him, and take his place in leading the social revolution. Gerald agrees to this, and begins to live as the bartender. One day, a masked figure arrives. There is one last martial arts poem. Then the figure reveals itself to be Sandy Hu, who takes her car keys back, and leaves with the car.

Chapter 8: Dance

Discussion Questions:

Who was the dance really about?

Why did Yamashita format the chapter the way she did?

Synopsis: Sandy Hu decides to choreograph and perform a dance with Gerald, about the life of the outlaw Li K’wei, though Gerald believes it to be about someone named Mama Rose. They perform the dance in the basement of I-Hotel. The page is set up in 3 columns, with the middle column always telling us what music is playing, or what dance steps are being taken. The other columns alternate, with one telling about the life and history of Li K’wei’s blind mother, or Mama Rose, and the other expressing thoughts or emotions related to what’s happening. Mama Rose was raised in an internment camp. Growing up, she had no friends. She eventually met a man her family did not approve of, and was sent to live with her aunt. But she eloped with him, disowning her family. Throughout her life, Mama Rose went to college, did both woman and Asian studies, became introduced to the jazz culture, fell into drugs, got into theater and dance, and continued her interest in Asian culture and women’s rights, as well as doing a lot of traveling.

Chapter 9: Yellow Peril

Discussion Question:

Why does Gerald not seem to like the song?

Synopsis: Gerald attends the second annual picnic for the Bay Area Asian American Coalition Against the War. At the event, a band called the Yellow Pearl plays a song about Li K’wei. Before the song begins, Aiko, a member of the band, dedicates the song to the Vietnamese people and their struggle for liberation. At the end of the song, Gerald does not seem too pleased with the song, asking who wrote it.

Chapter 10: Iron Ox

Discussion Questions:

What is Gerald’s link to the outlaw Iron Ox?

Synopsis: The narrator starts off by telling us that the radical leftist group, the JTC, has shut down and gone underground. Sen Hama, an artist, starts an art collective, in an effort to shift the direction the activism was going in. One night, Gerald wanders into Sen’s studio, thinking something is going on there, and finds that Sen is making a poster for his next show. Gerald says it will be his last show, as he does not want to sell out. The two uninstall a bathtub, which the narrator calls an iron ox, and throw it out the window of the studio, dropping it over two feet. The two check the wreckage out, and Gerald is inspired to become a gardener. They create a garden next to the studio, with Gerald making his own greenhouse, and it quickly becomes a community garden. The garden is the only place anyone can hear Gerald play music anymore. The narrator then invites us, the readers, to join the band of outlaws.

Overall questions:

What are the recurring characters’ such as Gerald and Sandy Hu’s relationship to the 108 outlaws? Are they members?

Why did Yamashita choose to make weapons and instruments so interchangeable in this novella?

(Edited by Hasan)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

5. Clio & Abra

Poetry boys: Jack sung, George Baso, Paul Lin were part of a group on the roof of the I-hotel that were basically a group of scraps that just shot the wind, mooning the moon, passed around the Christian brothers, cursing at the moon…etc. It then switches to Clio and Abra, who talk about their band and how they are looking for a drummer now. They create an analogy of the body in relations with music.

• “When we write poetry, we write about how we love you. Finally we stand up to the white man, and you blame us for your bound feet?”—Pg563

• What does the quote above signify?

6. Bar &Huo Lian

Starts out on Columbus at the city lights. The story then changes to second person as if you met the author. It transfers to Paul, the editor who wonders a lot about his employee’s health and wellness. Then, a rehearsal appears, and Huo Lian. This story seems to be a dialogue between you and the author. They start talking about South Korean and its wealth standards

• “Make love, not war. What does this really mean?”—pg 565

• The question, how did Bard and Huo Lian live out this quote? Or failed to?

7. Renee & Ken

Ken achieves a law degree, passes the California bar, then finds a job in Asian Law Caucus. In the beginning he was a model employee. He then meets Renee. They both get into a huge tussle. Ken believes that Renee did some pretty bad things to him, and so he throws a temper tantrum. This chapter is quite interesting because it talked about how these immigrants deal with such jobs and future. Renee and ken desperately wants a child.

• “Through vision of human perfection, she’s the incarnation of a previous existence of passion and loss, and the more she rights her karma, the greater and more bitter her failure.”—Pg. 573-74
• “Full engagement with life. An act of sacrifice to open the heart to love. —Pg. 575

• What does these quotes above mean?

Reading Guide to Fall of the I-Hotel: 1973 by Hasan

Reading Guide to Fall of the I-Hotel: 1973 by Hasan

1973: Int’l Hotel


This novella centers around four main characters: Ria Ishi, Wayne Takabayashi, Stony Ima, and Jack Denny. Ria Ishi is a UC Berkeley graduate and a social activist. Wayne Takabayashi is the son of Dr. Tom Takabayashi, the dean of the defunct Berkley school of Criminology. Stony Ima is an American social activist whose father is originally from Amami. Jack Denny is a Native American from Oklahoma and is also a Vietnam War veteran. The novella starts with how all of the characters first met on account of their voyage to Alcatraz, then deals with certain portions of lives of the individual characters, and again ends with the reunion of all the characters in Tule Lake.

1: Turtle Island


The chapter starts with Ria, Wayne and Stony meeting together for the first time in order to go to the Alcatraz Island. Since it was illegal to go there, they had to avoid the coast guards. They come across Jack and borrow his boat, Turtle. When a coast guard spots the group, they pretend to be Japanese fisherman and sets sail for the Alcatraz Island. On their way, the group learns from Jack about the Modoc battles with the US government in Tule Lake in vivid details. Upon reaching the island, the group learns of a myth about how the Earth was created from the Native Americans. Three animals went in search of land. The amphibian among the animals found a plug of soil, and finally the Earth was born from the tiny plug of soil from the turtle’s back. The chapter ends with a group of Native Americans leaving the island on Jack’s boat, Turtle.

Memorable quotes:

“Winning a battle could get you a peace treaty, but not necessarily the one you want and not necessarily the one they’ll keep. The price of peace, if it has one, is never cheap.” (379)

“It was another Apollo, another moonwalk. On Earth, Indians walked on Alcatraz. ‘One step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’” (381)

“History tells us that the white man’s pride is located in his laws, such that he will justify his pride and his greed, his great paternity and his superiority, with the great writ of his laws. Everything must follow accordingly. The white man will only give up or lose something if forced to do so by his own laws; in this way, he cannot lose face and continues secure in his pride that this law must be just.” (381)

Discussion Questions:

We learn of a myth about Earth’s creation that that the Earth was born from a tiny plug of soil on the back of a turtle and three animals who go in the search of land. (381) What is the significance of this myth?

Why was Jack comfortable when the Indians left with his boat? (382)

2: Crane


This chapter deals with two stories. First, it shows how the viewpoints of Ria Ishi on how to change the world changed. Second, it tells us through the story of Mrs. Lee how a group of Chinese women, who were previously exploited, were empowered. Through this chapter, we also learn that the I Hotel was not just a place for old manongs to live. It was also a source of livelihood for Asian American community, because it housed many small businesses.

Ria Ishi, a UC Berkeley graduate, gets a job as an interpreter in a sewing factory. In her job, she notices how Chinese women working in the factory were exploited. The worst part is that these female workers do not even realize that their employers are taking advantage of them; they simply accept the cold harsh reality that they do not have many opportunities, simply because they cannot speak English. Later, when an order for a ‘Mao jacket’ comes their way, Ria, along with a group of her fellow students and Chinese female factory workers, starts their own factory, ‘I-Hotel Cooperative Garment Factory’ at the basement of the I Hotel. At the beginning, the Chinese women allow the students to deal with the planning, orders, and the finances. However, soon they realize that their business acumen is far more superior to that of the students and directs the students to get orders for specific tasks. They also realize how the manufacturers and the retailers are exploiting them; these middle men buy their works at a cheap price but sell them at exorbitant rates to the final consumers. They understand that have replaced the contractors in the form of students, and now need to do get rid of the manufacturers. Eventually, Mrs. Lee takes on the responsibility of organizing the weekly meetings from the students, and decides that they require lessons for English language and American history, and facilities for child care. The women workers even come to a direct confrontation with a manufacturer and call him ‘cheap.’ Through financial independence, the women realize about the rights that they are entitled to. Meanwhile, Ria Ishi also learns that she cannot just stick to socialism and needs to employ capitalistic models to run factories. This leads to a clash of ideologies with Olivia. At the end of the chapter, Mrs. Lee acquires American citizenship and goes to child care services, shutting down the factory. She tries to convince Ria to pursue her studies further.

Memorable quotes:

“This dress we make for $2! Look, selling for $30!...First, we get rid of contractor. Next we get rid of manufacturer.” (387)

“Believe me, I struggle with this every day, but it’s not like textbook Lenin.” (388)

“Listen, I tell you something. American Revolution is happening two hundred years ago. What’s two hundred years?...But,… first time is the last time. Can’t make same revolution twice. Look at me…I know what you think, but I am not the revolution.” (391)

“I know students think East is Red, but this is not the East. So you better go. Go figure out a new way.” (392)

“We say that the sun rises in the East, but now we live in the West. Now I am American. I’m not leaving. You go make a sun rise in the West.” (392)

Discussion Questions:

Mrs. Lee observes: “First, we get rid of contractor. Next we get rid of manufacturer.” Ria thinks: “But could they make 100,000 dresses for national distribution? One dress at a time.” (387) Do you think it is possible to get rid of contractors, manufacturers so that all the profits go to the working class?

After making reference to the East and the West, Mrs. Lee says: “You study, you find out.” What is Mrs. Lee asking Ria to find out?

Do you think women empowerment comes with financial independence of women?

3: Cormorant


This chapter tells us about Stony Ima’s journey to discover his roots in Amami. Stony comes across an injured Jack and admits him to a hospital. Jack requests Stony to sell his station wagon and keep half of the money for himself and the other half for Jack in a bank account. When Stony visits Jack in the hospital to give Jack his cheque book, Jack confides in Stony about his dream of Stony’s visiting Japan. Accordingly, Stony goes to Japan. First, he visits the proposed site of the First Narita Airport at Sanrizuka, to help the farmers protest the construction of the airport in their farmlands, and meets Atari. He learns that Atari also hails from Amami, just like Stony’s father and learns the directions on how to get to Amami. Later, when the protests at Sanrizuka come to no avail, Stony visits various places in Japan, including Kyoto in order to see a particular Buddhist statue. While wondering the streets of Kyoto to find the hidden message from the Buddha, he buys a shakuhachi (a type of Japanese bamboo flute). After playing the flute, he is overwhelmed with emotions and decides to go to his parental house at Amami. In Amami, an old woman gets shocked to see Stony and flings herself at his feet, mistaking Stony for her long gone husband (Stony’s father). That night, Stony dreams about an old man with his exact same voice. The following morning, he spends some time in the sea beach in a contemplative mood. Finally, Stony decides to prolong his stay in Amami for a considerable period of time.

Discussion Questions:

What was the significance of the Buddhist figure to Stony Ima? (396)

“This is the real thing.” (391) Did playing the shakuhachi convince Stony, who usually plays the yokobue, to go back to Amami finally?

“That night he dreamed a dream. He saw himself staring at himself in a mirror in a future time, an older man much like his father as an older man, or was it his father? But it was his own voice, his breath pushed through his lips that formed the question in the mirror: Is that all there is?” (398) What was the meaning behind his dream? Why did this dream convince him to stay longer than he intended in Amami?

How is the journey of Stony Ima to discover his roots back in Amami related with I Hotel or the civil rights movement in the Bay Area at that time?

4: Muskrat


The main character of this chapter is Wayne Takabayashi. This chapter deals with Wayne’s encounters with three different people, his father, Roshni, and Alma, at various stages in his life.

The chapter starts with Wayne’s taking coffee to his father, Dr. Takabyashi, who is alone in a cold cramped room in a building which was previously the Berkeley School of Criminology. Here, he learns about two stories from his father. First, his father tells him about the injustices meted out to his family during their internment at Tule Lake during World War II. Wayne’ uncle, John Takabayashi, decided to defy the curfew imposed on Japanese Americans. When no police officials took any actions against him, John himself went to the police to get arrested. Eventually, Wayne’s grandparents had to leave the internment camp to testify in his trial. Shockingly, despite being innocent and witnesses in a trial, Wayne’s grandparents were kept in jails, simply because they were Japanese. Second, his father tells him about how Aiko Masaoka wanted an armed revolution and even coerced Wayne into joining her. At the end, Wayne receives from his father a golden pen.

Next, Wayne meets Roshni by accident when he collides into her. Roshni is getting signatures for petitions regarding nuclear disarmament. Wayne learns from Roshni about the hazards associated with nuclear weapons, and decides to help her with the petitions. Through discussions with Roshni, Wayne further learns about Rabindranath Tagore, India’s nuclear tests, and Asian American Political Alliance. Eventually Roshni gives him rakhi as Wayne gives her the golden pen he received from his father.

Finally, Wayne comes across Alma. He learns about how Alma taught children at the Tule Lake internment camp, and how she helped the Japanese Americans integrate in her community after they had returned from the internment camps. Finally, Alma gives Wayne her pink Ford pickup. In exchange, Wayne gives Alma the rakhi that Roshni gave him.

Memorable quotes:

“law never made anyone free. Men make the law free. So citizenship didn’t keep me out of camp, and tenure didn’t guarantee my job.” (402)

“You know, it’s not always where you were born that makes you something.” (407)

“…all wars would end when women could vote because women were the only ones who would vote war out of existence.” (410)

Discussion Questions:

How do you feel about civil disobedience? How would you compare John Takabyashi’s actions against Alma’s actions? Which one do you think is more effective?

“Most Americans are confined to this big island and don’t know where anything is in the world.” (407) Do you agree with Roshni’s observation?

5: Tule Lake


In this chapter, all the main characters of the novella, Stony Ima, Ria Ishi, Jack Denny, and Wayne Takabayashi are reunited in Tule Lake after seven years. The entire group goes to Jack’s house, which has a modified version of sauna. While taking a dip in the sauna, each character experiences a vision, which helps them better understand themselves. Each vision tells us a different story about the injustices that the Japanese American community suffered during World War II. In the first vision, Jack experiences an episode from his uncle Albert’s life. While tracking footsteps, Albert comes across a huge swath of land, surrounded by barbed wires, and guarded by tall towers with soldiers on top. Upon learning from a soldier that the land is the property of US government, he wonders which tribe occupies this reservation camp. In the second vision, Wayne sees a young Alma and his grandmother together in the Tule Lake internment camp. The children in the camp presents Alma a necklace made from white seashells they picked from the barracks. When Alma leaves the camp, Wayne’s grandmother and the children accompany her only to the gate and remain content watching Alma’s figure diminish into the distance. In the third vision, Ria sees how his mother, along with a baby Ria, boards a ship bound to America, leaving behind her father in Japan. In the fourth vision, Stony sees an event from his childhood. Mr Seiji, his father’s friend, visits his mother in the Tule Lake internment camp to offer condolences for his late father. He also presents his mother with a book on tanka poetry, and admits he only came to the camp because he could not return to Japan. At the end of the chapter, Wayne exchanges with Jack his pink Ford pickup for tule, a type of grass that grows in the Tule Lake.

Memorable quotes:

“You might go on a quest to find the answers, but sometimes those ghosts are right there next to you, following you around, holed up inside your being. Then one day, it all gets sweated out.” (419)

Discussion Questions:

“We were always American.” (417) What defines an American?

(Edited by Timothy Peng)

Friday, February 4, 2011

1968 by Dan

1968: Eye Hotel

General Questions
1. Do you like or dislike Yamashita’s writing style, and why?
2. How does Yamashita’s writing style convey her message?
3. What is Yamashita’s message thus far in the book?
4. Which section of 1968 was your favorite and why?

Chapter 1. Year of the Monkey
Paul Lin’s father passes away during Lunar New Year festivities. Paul’s aunt comes to support him and help him handle the obligations concerning his father’s funeral. There is a procession through Chinatown, during which Paul meets Chen, a friend of his father’s, who teaches a Chinese literature class at San Francisco State. One day, Paul decides to clean his father’s house from top to bottom, and then go to SFSC to attend Chen’s classes, part of his journey to find out more about his own identity and his own niche now that he is on his own. He meets Edmund Lee, a full-time student but also works full time to support his family. Edmund is very intelligent and one of Chen’s brightest students. Later, there is a student-run protest against the administration of the school.

Memorable Quotes:
“Could have given her his dad’s entire library plus his paintings, burn it all up to heaven” (7).
“Got to see Chen to find the real keys to get back in” (13).
“Suddenly he sees himself multiplied, monkey orphans let loose, raising havoc” (17).

Paul’s passivity during the funeral proceedings show that he is not sure how to approach his father’s death. As an Asian American, he doesn’t seem to fully understand the meaning of the proceedings and their symbolism, and it is taken care of by his aunt. He gradually comes to the realization that he can learn from Chen, and attends his classes, not knowing what he will find. During the protests, he almost actively participates, but is restrained by Chen. He sees that the students protesting around him are just like him, and that this is an environment where he can discover more about who he is.

1. What are your feelings towards Paul?
2. Can you relate to him, or is it difficult?

Chapter 2. Language in Reaction
Chen was fired from the university, but continued to teach in a café. He taught about the teachings of Mao and how Mao believed that there two types of armies needed for social liberation: a military, and also a cultural army armed with the pen. Later, there is Japanese American Citizen’s League meeting, during which Edmund works the banquet and Paul is protesting outside. The acting president speaks during the meeting and expresses his belief that the elder generation of Japanese must communicate all the hardships they have experienced so that the younger generation can continue the tradition.

Memorable Quotes:
“He really believed in the cultural army, in liberation by means of the pen” (25).
“The winning civilization will be the one that keeps its history going” (34).

Chen shows how much faith he has in writing as a form of expression. Paul and Edmund are still learning about their roles in the Asian American community.

1. Why does Yamashita attribute such significance to the act of writing?

Chapter 3. Analects
Professor Chen applied for his sabbatical and travels to France, while Paul and Edmund remain stateside to take care of Chen’s finances and his properties. Paul and Edmund continue to immerse themselves in their environment. Edmund proactively researches about and contributes to the Asian American community through his writing. Edmund receives funding for a Chinatown Youth Service Center, which is established to better the community through employment support. When rejected by the Holiday Inn hotel for positions for Asian Americans on the staff, Edmund creates the group Chinese for Affirmative Action to protest. Paul continues to write and read poetry that demonstrates his struggle with his identity. Chen returns from France to find that the protest/strike agreements were never enacted, and that students and faculty were punished for their dissent.

Memorable Quotes:
“On which side of the bay does the father live? On which side of the bay does the worthy son?” (45-46)

Paul and Edmund continue to grow and become active voices in the community, even without the help of Professor Chen. They are gradually being groomed to carry on the work Chen has done throughout his life.

1. Do Paul and Edmund struggle with the same issues? How are their issues different?

Chapter 4. My Special Island
There are protests over the islands called the Tiao Yu Tai Islands. These islands have belonged to the Chinese and have been populated by Chinese fishermen through much of China’s history, but through an agreement between the US and Japan, the US have relinquished control of the islands to Japan without the consent or consultation of China or the residents of the island. The Tiao Yu Tai islands are also known to have significant oil reserves. There is a show of solidarity in support of the Chinese interests in those islands, and against the Japanese and American “imperialists.”

Memorable Quotes:
“This isn’t about supporting one government or another...this is about the sovereignty of the Chinese people...” (57).

Paul and Edmund’s journey towards discovering more about their heritage materializes during this conflict, and they see what it means to take a stand for their people, even if they have lost touch with that part of their background.

1. What is the significance to Paul saying “I cried, and I’m not really Chinese?”

Chapter 5. We
Chen and Paul meet on a ferry to Angel Island, the Ellis Island of the Pacific, where many Asian immigrants were detained for long periods of time. Paul and Chen make plans to publicize and publish material from Angel Island.

Memorable Quotes:
“Leaving behind my writing brush and removing my sword, I came to America” (62).

Chen and Paul’s collegiality is shown. They continue to work together to put Asian American struggles, past and present, on the map for others to see.

1. Who is the “we” that is constantly referred to?

Chapter 6. Tofu Tigers
Chen and Edmund travel to China as returning overseas citizens, to experience all that has changed since they’ve since they were last there. They are greeted by representatives of the Chinese Communist Party and are shown perspectives of a socialist society. They visit the village of Tachai, and Chen reconnects with his old professor, who no longer participates in writing or the activism he used to, to the disappointment of Chen. Edmund gets himself into trouble with the local authorities when a friend starts taking pictures.

Memorable Quotes:
“I applied [to college], but it’s my country’s wish that I work here” (67).

Both Chen and Edmund discover that their homeland was nothing like how it was when they left. The people are different (Chen’s old professor) and the customs have changed (that led to Edmunds encounter with local authorities). They no longer feel as strong of a bond to their homeland, and it is apparent their special niche is in the Asian American community in America.

1. Are the realizations Chen and Edmund come to positive ones?

Chapter 7. Chinatown Verité
The writing style of this section is in the form of a script of a film. The section details the hardships Asian Americans must endure, such as the dissociation of identity, and employment and living conditions. Edmund is mortally wounded during apparent gang activity.

Memorable Quotes:
“Chinese are greatest actors. We play double roles. We got our real names and then we got our paper names” (83).

The structure of this section is appropriate because Yamashita wants to portray the “acting” of the Chinatown residents. This is one of the most concrete passages of the novella and clearly and coldly presents life as it was.

1. Why was the death of Edmund included in the novella? What does it represent?

Chapter 8. This Moment
Paul, Chen, and Judy, who is a friend of Edmund’s, support each other in the aftermath of Edmund’s death. Paul turned to writing and invested himself more in the Poetry Boys Club that he was a part of, while Chen became disillusioned with the loss of his closest and brightest pupil. Chen functioned poorly and stopped writing, and became involved in a traffic accident. Chen resumed Edmund’s work, and it was clear that he and Edmund had a special connection that transcended their generational gap. Paul knew that they were the closer of the three of them and he was the odd one out. He later found out Chen had a relationship with his mother before introducing her to Paul’s father.

Memorable Quotes:
“Of this new generation, only Edmund had read Chen’s poetry and knew its flavor and value, but Edmund was no longer” (100).

Chen is dealing with what he believed the loss of value/appraisal for his work, with Edmund’s death. Without Edmund, he felt the younger generation i.e. Paul could not fully understand what it was that he, the older generation, have experienced and accomplished.

1. How was Paul and Chen affected differently with Edmund’s passing?

Chapter 9. Authentic Chinese Food
There is a Chinese story about two lovers that were only intimate twice a year, and after these passionate encounters, they would cook for each other and create extravagant cuisines. Chen and Jack discuss specific dishes for their cookbook.

Memorable Quotes:
“Taste travels to you from eight centuries” (109).

The cookbook represents a link to the past for Chen, and the past is consuming him and his thoughts and priorities.

1. What are Yamashita’s intentions in introducing this section on food?

Chapter 10. All the Things You Are
Paul and Chen reconcile and reconnect, under pressing conditions because Chen’s house is condemned during a storm and he is forced to relocate. Chen reassures Paul that he is not his father. They escape the storm together with what belongings they could take.

Memorable Quotes:
“I don’t need my stuff. I haven’t needed it all year” (111).

They take their unfinished manuscripts, and will likely resume the writing that has always kept them close.

1. Is this a satisfactory ending? What does Yamashita want you to think will happen?

Edited by Ji-Sun Ham

1969 by Jack

1969: I Spy Hotel
Edited by Dan Zhen

Chapter 1. Dossier #9066
In this section, Yamashita brings the reader into the mindset of analyzing a folder or document about Professor Tom Takabayashi. Within the document we learn that Takabayashi was born in Seattle in 1926. At 16 he is placed in internment camps with his family. We learn about Takabayashi’s education and the doctorate degree he receives on parole systems in America. The chapter includes his early career and his initial involvement with “radical protests.” In 1974, Berkeley School of Criminology is closed and the faculty blames Takabayashi and his protestors. Throughout the chapter, Takabayashi is portrayed as an instigator and a suspect of criminal activity. Eventually, Takabayashi’s wife leaves him after suspicious activity not highlighted by the report. Conspicuously, Yamashita chooses to blacken out names of popular stars and other professors to add to the mystique of the reading experience. This limited knowledge reflects postmodern literature, where authors seek to address realities of life and wish to reflect on individuals’ ignorance about specific events.

Memorable Quotes:
“I took actual parole cases and crossed out the names and decisions, sent them to justices around the state , and had them retry the cases…the decisions were ultimately preferential, personal, and ideological” (120).
“Students saw three choices: go to school, go to prison, go to war. We challenged the idea that society, and therefore education, should be controlled by the threat of punishment and the history of race” (127).

1. How does chapter 1's title (Dossier #9066) pertain to civil rights struggles in the book thus far?
2. What is your interpretation about the black-out names on pages 119, 121 etc?

Chapter 2. Recorded Live in Your Face
In this chapter, Yamashita displays this section as if it were a movie script. Each scene is detailed beforehand. Here, the chapter first follows the Asian American Experience class (Professor Takabayashi’s class) at Berkeley as it prepares a protest. Coincidentally, Takabayashi is portrayed as having almost nothing to do with the protests, simply offering a classroom for the students to meet. After the quick meeting, the students confront Takabayashi’s guest, Professor Haas and call him a racist for his book. Only one student is named by his actual name, James Baba, an important character later on. The scenes describe the hectic violence of the protests and demonstrate the extremism of both the students and of the police, nicknamed “the pigs.” Mo Akagi breaks in threatening to kill Baba. At the same time, though not related (at this point), a Minister of Defense meets with revolutionaries and teaches them to fire weapons. The chapter moves on to a JTC meeting (J-Town Collective) where members are screening a movie on police crackdowns in other neighborhoods. We learn that the JTC is trying to protect the Nihonmachi neighborhood from eviction. James Baba is an important organizer and talks strategy with other members, notably Aiko Masaoka. The chapter ends with James Baba packing up with many questions still remaining about the JTC’s mission in Nihonmachi. Significantly, James Baba is referenced by many members of the JTC as their James Brown, a popular voice of the civil rights movement.

Memorable Quotes:
“Check out what it says about mace and tear gas” (129).
“(Policeman 2) It’s not him…(Policeman 1)…Book him anyway. Resisting arrest. Assaulting a policeman. Obstructing entrance to a public space” (136).
“Molotov cocktails and stones are called criminal weapons, but how else can we defend ourselves?” (149).
“It is a conglomerate of well-to-do property owners and business interests…Their aims are selfish and do not account for the lives of longtime renters who have lived and operated their businesses in Nihonmachi for generations” (158-159).

1. In chapter 2, how does the reader's viewpoint of Professor Takabayashi change from chapter 1? What significance does this have with Yamashita's writing style?
2. What is interesting to you about Yamashita's view of the "pigs"?
3. What is the significance of the scene with Mo Akagi or the Minister of Defense?
4. Why does Yamashita reference James Brown at the end to many sections? What does this have to do with James?

Chapter 3. A Need to Know Basis
This chapter focuses on the relationship between the characters Nelson and Aiko. As their short relationship plays out, Yamashita interludes with a voice-over that talks about infiltrating an organization. First, Nelson is caught trying to steal Aiko’s car. James Baba shows up and recognizing Nelson, who plays it off as a joke, which was highly unlikely. James places Nelson under Aiko’s reluctant care and slowly, Nelson begins to develop a new identity within the community. As the voice-overs become more sinister and intense, Nelson reveals a stranger has been visiting the JTC’s offices looking for James. Unfortunately, Nelson nearly blows his cover with a character named Jay and mysteriously leaves. It is important to note that this story is given no timeline, so the reader must make their own assumptions about its chronology. Aiko’s feelings for Nelson were extremely strong, yet Nelson’s quick exit once again leaves the reader with many questions about Nelson’s true purposes within the JTC.

Memorable Quotes:
”We suspect the offices are bugged, so we move our strategy meetings around to other locations” (170).
“Say a white group and a colored group want to align themselves for power purposes. It’s easy. Pull the race card, shit about their ‘national’ position, see what I mean? No way they see eye to eye” (174).
“Anonymous letters…Anonymous phone calls. Someone calls with a tip. Same tip for another guy on the other guy. Could be regarding a woman or money. Either will do. Starts a fuckin’ war” (177).

1. In chapter 3, what does the voice-over add to the scene?
2. Was Nelson a spy? If not, who was? How can you be sure?
3. Why does Yamashita contrast the scenes of peace (children playing, lilies in a pond, grandparents) with the dark side of the voice-over? What does this say about society today?

1970 by Bhushan

I Hotel — Book 3

The style of Book 3 was quite different from Books 1 and 2. Instead of being a collection of fairly long stories, Book 3 was broken up into 8 chapters that were all less than 5 pages apiece.

Chapter 1: I Am Hip


Two people, described as “ministers of information of the Black Panther Party and the Red Guard Party,” are sitting in a Moscow hotel room talking about the past. Their plan is to travel through the Communist countries of Asia and eventually meet Mao Zedong. RG, the Red Guard Party’s Minister of Information, tells a story about his past. He went on tours with Janis Joplin as a stagehand, doing drugs and protesting with hippies to avoid the draft. The chapter ends with RG telling the story of his trip to a military recruitment office while on meth, shouting about how he wanted to be an addict.

Quote at the end of the chapter: “The Black Panther Party hereby offers to the National Liberation Front and Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam an undetermined number of troops to assist you in your fight against American imperialism.” — Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party. (196)


Q1. It is understandable that the Black Panther and Red Guard Parties felt animosity towards the US government. Why do you think they focused on the soldiers and the Vietnam War in particular?

Chapter 2: I Am a Brother


Chapter 2 continues where Chapter 1 left off, in the Moscow hotel room. During the conversation, Mo Akagi, a Japanese member of the Black Panthers, is brought up, and his story is told.

Akagi, as a Japanese American, was interned between the ages of five and nine during World War II. Mo met Huey P. Newton soon after and joined a gang with him. At eighteen, he enrolled in the army during a period of peace, hoping to be like one of the members of the 442nd regiment, but there was no one to fight. Once he got out of the army, he enrolled at UC Berkley. He looked into joining Malcolm X, but decided against it because it would require him to be celibate and to quit smoking and drinking.

Akagi read Marx and other radicals and began designing a curriculum for potential recruits to read. He started smuggling in The Little Red Book via China and using the profits to fund the Black Panther Party.

Chapter 3: I Am a Warrior


The storytelling continues. The Panther asks how the Asian-Americans of the Red Guard Party met the Black Panthers. Their alliance was the result of Asian-American girls from Chinatown hooking up with African-American guys from Oakland, which led to the two of them creating armed safe houses together. One of these safe houses was surrounded by the police with guns while the Black Panther and a character named Woman Warrior were inside. That is when the chapter ends.


Q1. Very little information is given in this chapter about the characters. Why do you think Yamashita does this?

Chapter 4: I Am a Crusader


The Black Panther from Chapter 3 manages to escape from the safe house. Meanwhile, Akagi is organizing Black Panther chapters across the country. He communicates with Robert F. Williams, author of Negros with Guns and producer of Radio Free Dixie, who is broadcasting from Cuba and is also in China. Williams and Malcolm X inspire the Black Panther movement.

Akagi becomes a weapons trainer for the Panthers. When the Panthers march in Sacramento, they become national news. Even isolated people from places as far away as Reed College (Portland, OR) telegram in saying they want to join and Akagi goes out to accept them.


Q1. The chapter ends with a quote by Mao Tse-tung calling for people of all classes and races to rise up and join the revolution. What parallels do you see between Mao’s quote and this chapter?

Chapter 5: I Am a Martial Artist


This chapter describes daily life for adolescent gangsters in Chinatown. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of adult supervision, and kids are in and out of juvie. Some get jobs at the local pool hall, but police brutality and harassment ruin any chance of keeping their jobs as a stable enterprise. There is significant tension between the Chinatown-born kids, Legitimate Way, and the foreign-born kids, the Wah Ching. Legitimate Way, RG, and a Russian kid decide to organize themselves, preserve order, and defend themselves against both police brutality and the Wah Ching in order to impress visiting Black Panthers.

Meanwhile, RG and Panther, who are still in the Moscow hotel room, decide to start smoking. However, they accidentally light the carpet on fire.


Q1. Why is there such tension/aggressiveness between the foreign-born kids and the Chinatown-born kids? Why would the Chinatown-born kids far prefer to associate with the Black Panthers than the foreign-born kids?

Chapter 6: I Am the Third World


The police begin shutting down Black Panther operations across the United States. Dozens die and hundreds are incarcerated. A number of minority groups rally near the Hall of Justice and the San Francisco Jail. Since RG is missing, Akagi, the Japanese Panther, decides to represent the Asian-American community.

Akagi gives a speech to try to rally the crowd. He talks about how suppression of minority groups (black, Native American, Asian-American) had been practiced ever since the European “invaders” arrived. He relates that to what is happening in the modern day and says that the excuse given of “law and order” is nonsense. He mentions how women have been oppressed to make sure that feminists are represented, but quickly moves past that. He brings up Marxism but quickly brings down the material to the common listener’s understanding so that he can unite the people there under a banner of “Third World solidarity.”

Chapter 7: I Am a Revolutionary


We go back to RG and Panther in their Moscow hotel room. They manage to put out the fire and start to consider all the things that have happened in the world recently. They compare themselves to Che, Mao, and Malcolm doing their long journeys. Then they go back to storytelling. After the events of the above chapters, Legitimate Way becomes the Red Guard and tries to improve and safeguard Chinatown. During Waverly, a youth festival in Chinatown, a drunken tourist starts tossing firecrackers into the crowd. An RG member tosses him out, and two policemen come after the RG member, ignoring the hurt Asian-Americans. He fights them off, and the Red Guards put on a show of force that night, constantly exploding fireworks.


Q1. Do you think the Red Guards are really that much better than the policemen? Explain.

Chapter 8: I Am the Vanguard


RG and Panther, still in the hotel room, talk about women. They both dream of a woman who is as into the revolutionary movement as they are. She is totally devoted to the movement and to her man, willing to raise his children, even if he is cheating on the woman.

Akagi found a “righteous woman” to date and live with for a while, but eventually she could not take the stress that came from his frequent nighttime absences to patrol for the Panthers, and she left him. He plans to go live in the I-Hotel with the old Filipino and Chinese bachelors because he is a bachelor too.


Q1. We finally have reached a point where the I-Hotel is mentioned. Where do you the story will go from here?

Questions for the overall novella:

Q1. Did you feel the way Yamashita told the events of Book 3 made things more confusing or more understandable than Books 1 and 2?

Q2. The chapter titles in this Book are all of the form “I Am…” Why you think Yamashita titled them in this way?

Q3. What exactly was the purpose of this chapter?

Guide by Bhushan

Edited by Abby

1971 by Michael

1972 by Abby

1972: Inter-national Hotel

Guide by Abby

Edited by Sarah Neville


Each chapter is structured in a similar way. Each chapter is broken up into sections, with a quote by various famous revolutionaries or political figures at the beginning of each section. Within each section, each paragraph is given its own number, somewhat like a play. Each section within the chapter usually ends with some sort of paragraph that imparts wisdom or a moral value.

Questions to think about:

  1. Who is the oppressed? Is the oppressed one group of people or many groups? Is everyone oppressed in the same way? How are women oppressed - are they different from other oppressed groups?
  2. Who is a revolutionary? How are revolutionaries the same and different? What makes someone a revolutionary?
  3. What is the difference between history and a story? Are we being told a history or a story? How can you tell? How does this influence the way we should interpret the events in this hotel and in the whole book?

1: The Art of War


The quotes in this chapter are all by a famous revolutionary.

This is an overview of the events that will mostly be described in more detail later. It describes the lives of Olivia “Olie” Wang, the granddaughter of a failed generalissimo (it isn’t clear of what nationality, possibly Chinese), and Bienvenido “Ben” or “Benny” San Pablo, the grandson of a manong (Filipino nationality). Olie and Ben have a son, who they name Malcolm, after Malcolm X. They are both revolutionaries, although their exact roles in any sort of red movement and their ideologies are never made clear. One day, about a year after Malcolm is born, four men try to mug Olivia, but she runs away. The men, who are from the police of the Red Squad, break into Olivia and Ben’s house after finding their address in an address book they steal from another woman they mug. Ben escapes with Malcolm. It is revealed that Olivia has ovarian cancer, and she dies.

Throughout the chapter, Olie and Ben constantly make fun of each other and insult each other.


  1. “Ben pondered the constant warfare within his mind, the hidden mines that seemed to explode at every venture made through that dark labyrinth. Had not his heroes, Lenin and Marx, already cleared a path to light? Why was it, then, that his vision could only navigate through the clarity of a white opiate?” (297)
  2. “But she said: I have anticipated the end of the story without first imparting the beginning. Knowing the story’s end does not necessarily imply completion or knowledge, for if many endings are possible, so also are many beginnings… stories may turn and turn again.” (301)


  1. What does the first quote say about the motives and beliefs of a revolutionary?
  2. Why is the second quote, the ending paragraph of this chapter, about a story rather than a history? What does this say about this book as a representation of history?

2: Malcolm X at Bandung


The quotes in this chapter are all from the Final Communiqué at Bandung and Malcolm X.

Ben first sees Olivia when she gives a presentation at an event, and Olivia first sees Ben when he presents at a similar event. The events are both some sort of conference about the conditions of the working class. Ben is very interested by Olivia and he tries hard to meet her in person. He has his roommate find out more about her, and he eventually finds himself sitting next to her at a showing of One Fourth of Humanity: The China Story by Edgar Snow. Olivia acts very condescendingly towards him and gives him her copy of the Edgar Snow book to read, which he accepts without revealing that he has already read it – he wants to see her notes. Ben and Olivia keep running into each other. Karl Kang, a character who reappears later in this section, is introduced at a meeting. Ben takes a road trip to Montreal with his friend Macario Amado to attend a conference, and it so happens that Olivia is driving them.

Historical Background:

Bandung was a meeting of non-white governments, at which they issued a Final Communique demanding certain rights.


  1. “She ignored him, as if he were a mere working peon.” (311)


  1. What do you make of Olivia’s attitude? What does the quote say about the “equality” of a communist revolution?
  2. How do the quotes add to this chapter?

3: What Is to Be Done?


This chapter is further broken up into “Study Groups,” each of which poses a question before continuing with the story.

The plot is not quite linear. The sections alternate between recounting the journey to Montreal and showing dialogue between Olivia, Ben, and Karl Kang, where they debate the “Study Group” question, with Karl acting as a mediator. At the conference, Olivia and Ben support the opposition to American intervention in Vietnam, although it does not seem like the conference actually accomplishes much. When it’s time to leave, Macario stays behind to stay with a girl he met. Olivia and Ben drive back to California together. Along the way, they acknowledge their feelings for each other.


  1. “…Only to discover that the exchange of one’s labor in the form of a coin is at the center of the meaning of our lives.” (323)


  1. What is the purpose of the “Study Group” questions?
  2. Does the quote give accurate analysis of the meaning of our lives?

4: In Practice


This chapter has some sections which are entitled “Revolutionary Woman #__ -- Code Name: ______” The code name of the women is always taken from the quote that begins the section. All of the women are mistreated in some way by capitalist society, being fired from their jobs or making very little money. It is stated that several of these women are ethnic, although it is possible that some are white.

It is also revealed that Olivia stole her father’s car and left her (very rich) family after traveling to Mississippi and getting a Negro boyfriend who was not accepted by her family.


  1. “Women is the nigger of the world. –Yoko Ono” (335)


  1. What does this chapter say about the state of women in America?
  2. How do the code names add to this chapter?

5: On Colonialism


Ben’s past and his father’s story are described. Ben’s mother was white, which caused Ben’s father a lot of self-doubt. Ben does not have a close relationship with his father and has little respect for him. Ben’s father fought in the Philippines during the Second World War and then became a drunk. He returned to the Philippines at the end of his life and built a church after hallucinating his dead mother.

Some of Karl Kang’s life is also described. Karl marries a woman named Delia who later leaves him.


  1. “By his senior year in high school, Ben realized that no manner of assimilation or integration would erase his dark features.” (338)


  1. There seems to be a recurring plot line of revolutionaries’ wives leaving them. Why?
  2. How does Ben’s father shape Ben’s future?
  3. How is the identity crisis of someone who is half Asian-American different from the identity crisis of someone who is full Asian-American?

6: A Romance for Humanity


Each section of this chapter begins with a quote by Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines.

There are two story lines. Ben and Olivia get married at the I Hotel. There are also several sections which appear to be taken from one or more speeches given by Ferdinand Marcos, the president of the Philippines, in which he ultimately declares martial law because several protesters have been causing disorder in the Philippines.

Historical Background:

Ferdinand Marcos was elected President in 1965 and declared martial law in 1972 when the Communist opposition to his regime began to grow. Under martial law, civil liberties were suspended and the government had the power to arrest and jail their opposition, as well as the ability to appoint members. Although martial law was lifted in 1981, Marcos remained President and kept his power to jail any opposition. He was eventually forced out of office in 1986.

Imelda Marcos, the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, led a very extravagant lifestyle while her husband was in power. She held several political positions while her husband was in power and remained in politics after her husband was forced out of office.


  1. “Bakit mayroong mga Pilipino … nag-aanak ng kamatis.” (Imelda Marcos, 351) translates to: “Why are some Filipinos slanderous of the President and First Lady? Don’t they know that we are the father and mother of the Philippines? If the father is a sweet potato and the mother is a sweet potato, then the Filipinos are sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are not bred from tomatoes.”
  2. “Daig ko pa si Cinderella.” (Imelda Marcos, 357) translates to: “I defeated Cinderella.”


  1. How are Olivia and Ben related to the Filipino government – why are these two stories told concurrently?
  2. What is the significance of the quotes by Imelda Marcos?

7: National Liberation


Ben travels to Cuba, where he finds a great respect for the love of country that he sees in the Cubans. He admires the Cuban revolution. Olivia, Ben, and Karl are trying to organize the revolutionaries to take some course of action. It seems that Olivia and Ben want to unite the entire working class, regardless of race. Angela Davis, a Communist political activist who was quoted in Chapter 4, is invited to talk. Angela leaves when Olivia and Aiko (who has been in some of the previous books) can’t agree on what sort of meeting to hold. The chapter ends with Olivia giving birth to a son, who is named Malcolm.


  1. “Even if you mobilize the working class, they don’t give a damn about the Third World or blacks, much less Asians. It may take many years, most likely not in our lifetimes.” (Karl Kang, 362)


  1. How does this chapter show the clashes of the various revolutionary ideals?

8: Death of a Revolutionary


Ben struggles to compose some sort of document that will help two revolutionary groups merge together. There is a conversation between two people, one of whom is Olivia, and the other of whom is unidentified, but may be Ben. They are talking about a woman who used to be part of the revolutionary group who got purged because she was a “liability” and believed to be a spy. The woman is referred to as “Y,” and she may be Yuri or Yoko from Chapter 4. Olivia believes that it was unfair to purge Y, but the other person says that it was the right thing to do at the time. Olivia dies after injecting herself with something – her death may have been a suicide since she was already dying of cancer. She makes Ben promise to stop using drugs for Malcolm’s sake.


  1. “When it’s all said and done, they can change the history… They’ll only remember that we purged people, that Y died, that I was a fucking bitch.” (Olivia, 368)


  1. What does the quote say about history in general? About this story as an accurate representation of history?