The collective A novel

Don Lee, 1959-

Book - 2012

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New York : W. W. Norton & Company c2012.
1st ed
Physical Description
314 p. ; 24 cm
Main Author
Don Lee, 1959- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Joshua Yoon, a thirtysomething writer who never quite made it, has committed suicide. Hearing of Joshua's death, Eric Cho reflects on their relationship and what could have driven Joshua to commit such an act. It was the late 1980s when Eric met Joshua and a beautiful Asian art student, Jessica, at a midwestern college. The three became inseparable and referred to themselves as the 3AC, or Asian Collective. For Joshua, race was always an issue. He constantly questioned whether Eric was "Asian enough" when Eric dated a white woman, and when a racist act was perpetrated against the 3AC, Joshua pushed for retribution. Over time, Joshua, with his big ideas, cocky attitude, and manipulative personality, became more radical, while the others mellowed. Yet when another racist act was committed against one of the 3AC years later, it became a defining moment for all. Lee smashes Asian stereotypes to pieces to present a provocative look at what it truly means to have one's identity tied to not just oneself but also an entire race. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In 1988, aspiring writer Eric Cho bonds with aspiring pianist Jessica Tsai and another writing hopeful, the gargantuanly talented Joshua Yoon, at Macalester College. Later, in Cambridge, MA, they form the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective, working their way through questions of love, art, idealism, and racism. Former Ploughshares editor Lee, who won the Sue Kaufman Prize for his first collection, Yellow, and both an Edgar and an American Book Award for Country of Origin, is a cracking good writer. [Page 49]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

After meeting in 1988 as freshmen at Macalester College, Eric Cho, Jessica Tsai, and Joshua Meer (who later changes his adoptive surname to Yoon) become friends who share more than their Asian American heritage. Lee, winner of the Edgar and American Book Award for his first novel, Country of Origin (2004), presents a no-holds-barred portrait of the three students—the 3AC, or Asian American Artists Collective, as they call themselves—as they break stereotypes to pursue their dreams: Eric and Joshua are aspiring writers, while Jessica is an artist. Eric, who carried a torch for Jessica before discovering that she was a lesbian, narrates the trio's two-decade journey of friendship and artistic discovery. VERDICT Offering strong characterizations and thought-provoking prose, Lee addresses the Asian American experience from various vantage points, realistically examining themes ranging from personal relationships to racism and artistic censorship. His novel has enough depth to spark uninhibited discussion in any book group and, given its time frame, will have special meaning for Gen X readers. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA [Page 93]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Lee (Yellow) usually writes about pairs of men—brothers, friends, cops, writers, often polar opposites—but here develops a mixed triad, as narrator Eric Cho and the tyrannical Joshua Yoon, both aspiring novelists, befriend dormmate Jessica Tsai, a painter/sculptor. Macalester College freshmen; Eric is a good guy trying to remain so in the face of the overbearing Joshua, whose uncompromising views on everything from literary standards to their responsibilities as Asians, cripple him. When Eric has a torrid affair with an Irish Catholic girl named Didi O'Brien, Joshua disapproves in withering terms. After grad school, Joshua, Eric, and Jessica reunite to form the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective, living together in Joshua's house in Cambridge, Mass. Joshua's stories begin to be published, Eric languishes at a small literary magazine, and Jessica wins an exhibition grant from the Cambridge Arts Council. When her obscene sculptures cause a civic uproar, the 3AC dissolves in rancor, and tragedy ensues. The issues Lee wrestles with are clear: not only the sacrifice one must make to be an artist, but the melancholy burden of unfulfilled dreams. Questions of racial identity permeate every page, but apart from a lot of sex, there is too much telling and not enough showing. The author's themes overload his slight story with spineless characters unable to bear their depressive weight. Agent: Maria Massie, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (July) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

After a college friend's suicide, Eric Cho reflects on their friendship over the years.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Three aspiring Asian artists, a painter and two writers, meet in college and form a strong friendship after banding together against an act of racism that has lasting repercussions into their adult lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 25,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A sparkling bildungsroman about friendship and betrayal, art and race.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

In 1988, Eric Cho, an aspiring writer, arrives at Macalester College. On his first day he meets a beautiful fledgling painter, Jessica Tsai, and another would-be novelist, the larger-than-life Joshua Yoon. Brilliant, bawdy, generous, and manipulative, Joshua alters the course of their lives, rallying them together when they face an adolescent act of racism. As adults in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three friends reunite as the 3AC, the Asian American Artists Collective—together negotiating the demands of art, love, commerce, and idealism until another racially tinged controversy hits the headlines, this time with far greater consequences. Long after the 3AC has disbanded, Eric reflects on these events as he tries to make sense of Joshua’s recent suicide.With wit, humor, and compassion, The Collective explores the dream of becoming an artist, and questions whether the reality is worth the sacrifice.