Asian men and Western women (AMWW) in television and the movies have been heavily documented and analyzed here and elsewhere. We know and understand that, right now, TV and movies are a mixture of good and bad impressions. But what about books?
Just like TV and movies, books are also a mix of the good and bad, and I plan to cover the good and the bad AMWW couples as I go forward in search of new reads or if I go back and re-read previous books.
Since this is a website devoted to AMWW couples, I will focus on the AMWW couples and how they are presented. Without further ado, here is my review for “Free Food for Millionaires” by Min Jin Lee.
Unfortunately, Min Jin Lee’s portrayal of an AMWW couple as well as a man formerly married to Caucasian women is largely negative.
To her credit, the author does have positive Asian male representations in terms of Casey Han’s Korean-American boyfriend Unu as well as Casey Han’s best friend’s father, and, to an extent, Casey Han’s father. (Yes, these characters also play a big role in the story and are not caricatures.) And yes, there are bad Caucasian men in the story. But despite that, there are quite a few positive Caucasian men in the book, which doesn’t happen with Korean men who are attracted to Caucasian women. The two men I will focus on are Ted Kim and Professor Hong. I will begin with Ted Kim.
Ted Kim and Delia Shannon
From beginning to the end, I hated and detested Ted Kim with every fiber of my being. Ted is best described as a typical macho jerk who reminded me way too much of someone I used to know. He puts his work first and he isn’t really given motivations or personality to convince me to like him. There is nothing good about his character; literally, nothing. He was married to the beautiful and demure Ella Shim, but then out of boredom or because he wanted to prove he was the best, he began to cheat on Ella with a red-haired and blue-eyed Delia. However its impossible to have one’s cake and eat it too and to make a long story short, he ends up with Delia yet because of his behavior throughout the book, I couldn’t buy his sincerity and hated him and Delia, who seemed to like seducing married men. While with Delia, he does try to show he is the best in terms of trying to win the custody of his daughter as well as the house that he and Ella share. His reason for wanting his daughter? Just to show he can do it.
Professor Hong and his unnamed ex-wives
Professor Hong is an extremely dedicated choir teacher who comes to America to become a substitute teacher for a choir where Casey Han’s mother sings. Professor Hong is so dedicated that he has his own rituals and even refused to have children with his former wives because it would take away the dedication from his craft of singing. In other words, Professor Hong comes first and second and third and fourth…etc. However, he does turn out to be a rapist and thinks that silence equals consent, and in addition to being a rapist he seems to have no problem exploiting people for his personal gain.
Ultimately, are there any redeemable Korean men who like Caucasian women in this book? Unfortunately there aren’t. For positive AMWW relationships, I would give “Free Food for Millionaires” by Min Jin Lee a pass and look elsewhere.