Monday, December 20, 2010

Featuring Asian American Authors: Louis Chu

Louis Chu was born in 1915 in China and immigrated to the US when he was seven years old.  He wrote poetry in high school and graduated from Upsala College in New Jersey with a degree in English. He then got his masters degree in sociology from New York University in 1939.  He began writing fiction while he was serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.  He only published one novel: Eat a Bowl of Tea.

Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia of American Literature claims that in Eat a Bowl of Tea, Chu "provides a realistic portrayal of life in New York's Chinatown, portraying well the colloquial speech and the tensions of a world in which all the characters are Chinese."

The book met with a lot of criticism at its time of publication (1961) because it dealt with themes not openly talked about in any literature, much less in ethnic American literature.  These themes include extramarital affairs, prostitution, and impotence.  Because of the book's controversial nature and because of a lack of publicity available for literature written by ethnic Americans, the book received very little acknowledgment.  However, in 1974, Frank Chin, along with Jeffery Paul Chan, and Lawson Fusao Inada included it in Aiiieeeee!!! An Anthology of Asian American Writers. Because of its inclusion in this groundbreaking anthology, the book was republished a few times and is now considered an essential text for Asian American and multicultural literature courses.

For more information about Louis Chu, please see the articles in Literature Resource Center including the full text Asian American Writers. Ed. Deborah L. Madsen and part of the Dictionary of Literary Biography series. Or check out Eat a Bowl of Tea from Burling Library:

Eat a Bowl of Tea (1961)
Burling 3rd Floor PS3553 .H776

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