The Collective by author Don Lee was an immensely enjoyable novel that was extremely relatable in many aspects. The narrative, although in first person point of view, beautifully related the diverse stories of the main characters. From their individual experiences, the readers were able to form a sense of solidarity with the characters and their plights. Although this novel did not deliver the fairy tale ending of happily ever after (and indeed it was far from that), it seemed more authentic and genuine. It was a depiction of the realities of America, a place far different than many immigrants imagine it to be. The Collective was the first novel I have read that presented the plight of Asian Americans in a contemporary perspective. By allowing the reader to follow along through a large portion of the characters’ lives, starting in young adulthood to middle age, Don Lee enables the readers to become familiar with his characters, thereby forming connections
The topics addressed in the novel not only reflected those discussed in class, but also pertained directly to my major, Asian American Studies in the Humanities department. While negative stereotypes and images of Asian Americans are addressed and debunked, the novel also concentrates on the exploration of the Asian American identity. The Asian American identity: an ongoing struggle between inclusion and exclusion within the eyes of the American society. The Asian American identity has been a reoccurring question of mine recently. The ways in which I connect and balance the two Chinese and American sides of myself are indirectly shown in the novel. The question of assimilation and acceptance was raised within the novel, and it is a major struggle for many of the Asian American population. Given that I am from southern California, where the Asian American population is significantly higher than that of the rest of the nation, I did not often question my Asian or American identities. It was not until college and becoming an Asian American Studies major did I become aware of the social injustices against the Asian American population. The most important aspect that I drew from the novel, The Collective, was to possess awareness in an ignorant society. Many Asian Americans I know are unaware that discrimination still exists within the United States, and this lack of awareness limits their knowledge of the changing dynamics of the nation. An awareness not only of the Asian American plight, but also an awareness of your own Asian American identity should be known.
Evelyn Pei — #83257157