A Magazine, February-March 2001:

By Jennifer Ching

Like many other Asian American youth, I found my voice in the high school newspaper. I longed to be witty and sardonic before I even knew what these words meant; I wrote my biting commentary in the anticlimactic form of a restaurant review column. Later, as a student columnist of a local newspaper, I tackled larger issues facing the young masses of suburban New Jersey: everything from the Gulf War to prom costs. The first few pages of William Wong's Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian America reveal the venerable San Francisco-based columnist to be a kindred ally to those of us on the sidelines who found our earliest creative and political triumphs in the written word (perhaps we only imagined they were actually read).

Wong launched his passion for journalism after being fortuitously rejected from his high school basketball team. From staff reporter to columnist to commentator on McNeil/Lehrer Newshour, he has since innovated a unique, decades-spanning career of Asian American social commentary. Yellow Journalist collects Wong's numerous writings and columns published over the years and roughly organizes them into themes like "family" and "immigration." There are stories of his own -- of an upbringing in Oakland, a trip to China or his son's unlikely comments to President Clinton -- that makes us believe that America truly is home. But there are also sharp and insightful essays on racial violence, political antagonisms and exclusion, media, gangs and numerous historical markers (from Chinese Exclusion to Vincent Chin) that remind us that we are still building community and to embrace the struggles of race, class and gender as relevant and powerful forces on the local, national and international levels.

Part of Temple University's Mapping Racisms series, Yellow Journalist is not a narrative biography but a library of thoughtful reflections made all the more important by their honest, often driving perceptions of the contemporary events, ideas and sometimes avoided accountabilities that have marked the emergence of distinctly Asian American issues. Don't think that you've heard it all before: throughout his writings, Wong's own voice is reasoned, supported and never exploitative. As series editor Darrell Hamamoto comments, "'Chinaman,' Chinese American, Asian American; any way you slice it, Bill Wong is one straight-up righteous Yellow Man." He's the high school journalism teacher we all would have loved to have had.

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