asian-canadian lifestyle and culture magazine

Fall 2001

OF BANANA BOYS AND YELL-OH GIRLS
Mark Simon
Banana Magazine

Asian- North American writers can be an awful lot like the RCMP's fraud squad: they spend a lot of time trying to figure out identities. Two recent release - one Canadian, on American - are no exception. While very different in form and content, both books are primarily about exploring the conundrums of being young and Asian North American.

If you rewrote The Joy Luck Club substituting Canada for the US, Gen X males for Baby Boomer females, cynicism for mysticism, and beer for mah jongg, you might come up with something like Terry Woo's Banana Boys - but then only if you were really lucky. Asian-North American males have traditionally received the short shrift in pop culture, or even pop culture created by other Asians. The Toronto-based Woo provided a sometimes tragic, sometimes humourous answer for those who crave a more in depth look at the heterosexual, Asian-Canadian male psyche. His characters drink too much, obsess about their place in the universe, and are spectacularly unsuccessful with the opposite sex. In other words, they are much like people you might know (or, in some cases, actually be.)

Despite possessing a similar sounding title, Yell-Oh Girls! is a completely different sort of animal. Editor Vickie Nam has assembled a series of essays, poems, and thought pieces by Asian-American women ranging from their teens to mid-twenties. The "girls" tackle everything from cultural identity to personal body image to global activism, sometimes with affection, sometimes with rage, but always with honesty. Thrown into the mix are "mentors," established writers and role models such as Helen Zia, Patsy Mink and Janice Mirikitani, adding the wisdom of their experience to the energy of youth. Yell-Oh Girls! is a roaring testament to a generation that no longer hopes for change but actively seeks it.

(For the complete Fall 2001 issue, please visit http://www.bananamag.com.)