The Dim Sum of All Things
Kim Wong Keltner
Reviewed by: Carrie Byrd
Review posted: 03/14/05
In a time when choosing your identity means choosing from a variety of stereotypes Kim Wong Keltner has boldly delved into the story of one girl who dares to look past the surface of herself and her culture and look for something more. We see the story unfold through the eyes of Lindsey Owyang, a 20 something Chinese-American. Lindsey finds herself in conflict with her Chinese heritage and her American sensibilities.
Lindsey has moved in with her traditional grandmother after growing with her parents in a house full of hamburgers and spaghettios. Now she must decide whether she wishes to steep herself in tradition or embrace the same westernization as the rest of her family. To complicate things, her grandmother is setting her up with the grandsons of her mahjong partners, and Lindsey is attracted to a white man at her office. Somewhere between Hello Kitty and her aunt’s colored contacts “I really look half white, don’t you think?”, Lindsey has to find herself.
Although Keltner does dabble in some “coming of age” clichés, for the most part this is a great, original story. The character of Lindsey is well aware of the absurdities of her situation, and isn’t afraid to point out that her life sometimes ventures into the predictable pathways. In short, Lindsey seems well aware of the fct that she’s living in a coming of age novel, and she’s not thrilled about it. Fortunately for the reader, Lindsey’s self-awareness is funny and entertaining.
The Dim Sum of all Things occasionally shifts from the funny to the poignant. Like its main character, however, the book is at all times charmingly self-aware. Although it deals with the specifics of Chinese-American culture anyone who has ever struggled to define themselves both as an individual and as a part of their family culture and history will understand exactly what Lindsey is going through. Keltner has tapped into a universal theme in a charmingly specific way.
This is a fun book that avoids classification and provides both entertainment and food for thought.