Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 213

The themes of Alexander Chee’s book are all connected to the writer’s journey. By “how to write,” Chee means primarily “how I learned to write.” Emphasizing the multiple strands of a person’s life that are braided into the identity of writer, he includes the practice of writing—not as any singular action, but rather as the habit of days, months, and years. In the sense of being autobiographical, the book explores various facets of the identity theme, including childhood, adolescence, and youth adulthood. In reference to the novel, the book pays attention to the relationship between fact and fiction, as a writer draws on but always alters their own experience.

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Growing up Korean American with both Asian and Caucasian parents, Chee had an unusual childhood in Maine, a primarily white state. His journey to becoming a gay adult man is another strand of identity formation that permeates the book. Another theme is how children learn to be honest and trusting of adults around them, and what happens when that rust is violated, which occurred in Chee’s early years. Both his experiences of being sexually abused, and his path to sharing the information later with his mother, are important aspects of this theme of learning to trust after being betrayed.

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