IDNUMBER 200102240086
PAPER Vancouver Sun
PDATE Saturday, February 24, 2001
LENGTH 411 words
ITYPE Black & White Photo
ILLUS * Photo: Banana Boys (Heung Jiu Jei), by Terry Woo
The Riverbank Press, 381pp., $22.99
HEADLINE Unmellow yellow: A tale of five young Canadian-born Chinese
men addresses with both pathos and humour the difficulties of
assimilating two cultures
BYLINE Sara Dowse
SOURCE Special to the Sun

* Terry Woo's first novel, Banana Boys, is a skilful blend of
the stories of five young Chinese-Canadians. Dave, Luke, Shel, Rick
and Mike, all in their 20s, were students together at Waterloo
University, and Woo catches each of them in that moment when life
begins to get serious.
With one exception, they are dissatisfied with their jobs,
unfulfilled in their relationships with women and floundering
between two worlds -- Canadian and Chinese. In other words, the

* Banana Boys (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) are
``CBC,'' Canadian-born Chinese, or juk sing (``hollow bamboo''), and
throughout the book they discourse on this, some more intensely than
The novel switches from voice to voice, charting interactions
between the characters and their shared disillusion. Yet though
depression and alienation are constants, the prose is lively and
often hilarious, and the pace is as up-to-the-minute as you'd

*Opening with a funeral, the novel is also held together by
suspense. Of the five Banana Boys, Rick -- the deceased -- was the
one who fit in both worlds the best. His parents were proud of him,
and he enjoyed wealth, prestige, women and high living for the
duration of his short adulthood. The puzzle of what lay behind his
suicide flashes through the narrative like a fish in a river, until
the current carries us to the end.

* Banana Boys, set mostly in Toronto, nevertheless encompasses so
much of contemporary Canadian life that I found myself wondering
what Woo might tackle next. The main characters come complete with
families, working environments, girlfriends, clothes, cities, cars,
bars and sports. Luke works at a radio station specializing in
alternative industrial music. Dave is a software designer. During
the course of the narrative, engineer Shel gets a promotion and
moves to Ottawa. Mike, a graduate student in psychology, writer
manque (and, I suspect, Woo's alter ego), goes to a conference in

* In delineating the Banana Boys' families, Woo provides us with the
complex history of the Chinese in Canada, in microcosm. Chinese,
yes, but I leave you with these words of Mike's: ``Oh God, if I read
another dustcover describing a book about three generations of
Chinese women escaping the shackles of bondslavery, I swear the
oatmeal's gonna hit the wall.''
This is a novel with a difference, grim in parts, but with a great
sense of fun.
Sidney novelist Sara Dowse last wrote for Mix on the third volume
of Boris Yeltsin's memoirs.

yeah baby, yeah! - tw.