The Rice Room

Have added Ben Fong-Torres’s The Rice Room to my book recommendations page. One of the best and most unique Chinese American personal histories I’ve read.

As is often the case, let me know if you want to borrow, because I own the book.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at My old book review webpage is no longer up, but I’ve pasted the text of my review below.]

I bought this book while writing my senior thesis, because it sounded interesting and because I thought Fong-Torres’s recollections of life in a Chinatown restaurant family might yield some insights for my paper. After finding that his Chinatown was Oakland, not San Francisco, and that his father’s restaurant career took place after my time period, I put the book on my “to-read” shelf and didn’t look at it again until today, when I was eating dinner and wanted something to read. Now I’ve stayed up past my bedtime to finish it. I’d become disillusioned with Chinese American memoirs previously because they all started to sound the same, but this book is evidence that it’s possible to treat the subject of growing up both Chinese and American in a fresh and very individual way while retaining that spirit of candid reflection that makes autobiographies so endearing and moving.

Classification: This is a very quick read, but has a lot of poignant sadness to it, especially toward the end, so keep that in mind while reading. It’s an especially beautiful work if Chinese American issues resonate with you, but you don’t have to actually be Chinese American to get something out of this book. If you’re at all interested in the history of the 1960s and 70s in the Bay Area, or in the history of rock and roll, this book provides a fascinating firsthand account into both of those experiences. Or, even if you just like personal histories, this will appeal to you.