Famous Asian Americans by Wendy Dunn

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Famous Asian Americans Analysis

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

It is a great challenge to present fourteen people’s life stories within the limited space of less than two hundred pages: Important facts must be presented in a way that makes the account pleasant to read. In the hands of lesser authors, these biographies could be merely a collection of facts and dates, lifeless and dull. Morey and Dunn succeed in making these individuals come to life on the page by presenting the essence of their experiences and personalities in a lively manner.

In most cases, an entry is not simply a straightforward narrative from family roots to the height a subject’s achievement. It often starts with a dramatic moment in the subject’s life or the highlight of his or her career. For example, Michael Chang’s story begins with the glorious moment of winning the French Open at the age of seventeen. “Some kids go to Paris to study history, others go to make it,” a newspaper comments on his success. Even when the biography starts with the family history, it is often immediately tied to the individual’s achievement. The story of astronaut Ellison Onizuka starts: “When Kichiher and Wakano Onizuka voyaged to Hawaii from the Fukuoka prefecture in Japan, they never dreamed that one day their grandson would fly among the stars.” An opening such as this instantly draws young readers into the story.

The extensive use of quotation from the subject also enlivens the narrative. At many points, the authors let the subjects speak for themselves. For example, when relating Wendy Lee Gramm’s family values, they insert long quotations from her: “I like to be with the children. . . . We do have plenty of events we have to attend, but we do not accept many dinner invitations because we would rather be home with the children.” The subjects’ own voices lend credibility and a sense of intimacy to the story. The reader seems to converse with these famous people about their experiences and to share their insights into life.

From time to time, the matter-of-fact narration is enlivened by humorous anecdotes. Readers cannot help but chuckle over this incident in Connie Chung’s story: On one live broadcast, as the cameras were about to roll, the chain of her watch became caught on her blouse microphone, with her hand near her throat. To disguise her awkward gesture, her co-anchor also held his hand to his chest. The reader cannot resist smiling at this episode in the life of Pei: The architect, who did not care for rock and roll, was selected to design the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Although he always told his...

(The entire section is 653 words.)