Born on November 11, 1946, of Chinese American parents, Yin Tai Lum and Louise Lee Lum, Wing Tek Lum is the youngest of three brothers, all of whom were born in the United States. Lum’s grandfather, Lum Yip Kee (1866-1943), immigrated to Hawaii from Guangzhou, China, in 1884, first laboring as a taro farmer and then working in a grocery store in Honolulu’s Chinatown. He created the merchandising firm of Wing Duck Chong, with stores in Honolulu and Waipahu, in 1890, and later joined a group of other Chinese immigrants and established various taro plantations in Kahalu’u, Manoa, Mo’ili’ili, and the Palolo Valley. He built three factories in Honolulu for the production of poi, developed a rice-planting and wholesale distributing company, and established two banks, the Chinese-American Bank and the Liberty Bank of Honolulu. In 1932, he joined with Yum’s father, Yin Tai (1903-1977), to create Lum Yip Kee, Ltd., a family-owned real estate company. Yum’s father became the head of the company and groomed Yum’s oldest brother, Tan Tek, to hold the position of chairman and president. Yum, the youngest son, was given the position of executive vice president. Yum’s mother, Louise Lee Lum, died in 1963, when he was only sixteen years old—an event that was to have enormous influence on Yum’s personal and artistic life.
As an undergraduate engineering major at Brown University, Wing Tek Lum pursued his love of poetry and became interested in the work of the Chinese American author Frank Chin, to whom he dedicated his first collection of poetry, along with the work of the fifth century Chinese poet...
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