Critical Context

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 461

First published in 1961, Eat a Bowl of Tea initially met with unappreciative reviews. It was neglected for almost two decades until a post-1960’s generation of Asian American scholars, led by writers Frank Chin and Jeffrey Paul Chan, resuscitated it. The book was successfully filmed in 1988 by Wayne Wang and has been given a secure place in the canon of Asian American literature. Louis Chu’s only published novel has earned for its author the accolade of Chinese America’s first distinguished novelist.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Eat a Bowl of Tea Study Guide

Subscribe Now

The central conflicts of Eat a Bowl of Tea—the generational discord between traditional immigrant parent and assimilated American child and the clash between familial community and individual identity—have become frequently revisited sites of struggle by subsequent Chinese American writers. One thinks of Fred and Pa Eng in Frank Chin’s play Year of the Dragon (1974), the author and her shamanistic mother in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: A Memoir of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976), or the numerous mother-daughter duels in Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club (1989). Chu’s book is also prized because it is the first novel by a Chinese American insider depicting Chinatown life in a realistic, unexoticized way; more popular novels such as Lin Yutang’s Chinatown Family (1948) and Chin Yang Lee’s Flower Drum Song (1957) romanticized and stereotyped the subject. An especially notable difference is Chu’s realistic mirroring of the conditions in the “bachelor society” of America’s Chinatowns. This bachelor society originated because earlier racist American immigration laws excluded the wives of working-class Chinese men from entering the United States while equally racist miscegenation laws prevented Chinese men from marrying American women and establishing families. Thus, working men such as Wah Gay and Lee Gong returned home to marry and then...

(The entire section contains 461 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Eat a Bowl of Tea study guide. You'll get access to all of the Eat a Bowl of Tea content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Characters
  • Critical Essays
  • Analysis
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial



Critical Evaluation