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The Dim Sum of All Things

The Dim Sum of All Things

3.3 16
by Kim Wong Keltner

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Have you ever wondered:

  • Why Asians love "Hello Kitty"?
  • What the tattooed Chinese characters really say?
  • How to achieve feng shui for optimum make-out sessions?
  • Where Asian cuties meet the white guys who love them?

Then you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll


Have you ever wondered:

  • Why Asians love "Hello Kitty"?
  • What the tattooed Chinese characters really say?
  • How to achieve feng shui for optimum make-out sessions?
  • Where Asian cuties meet the white guys who love them?

Then you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll realize this book is better than a Broadway production of Cats when you read scenes that include:

  • twenty-something Lindsey Owyang mastering the intricacies of office voicemail and fax dialing
  • an authentic Chinese banquet where Number One Son shows off his language skills by speaking "Chinglish"
  • dating disasters with grandsons of Grandma's mahjong partners
  • the discovery that the real China looks nothing like the pavilion at Disney World
  • karaoke

And all the while Lindsey is falling in lust with the "white devil" in her politically correct office. But will Grandma's stinky Chinese ointments send him running? Or will Lindsey realize that the path to true love lies somewhere between the dim sum and the pepperoni pizza?

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Readers looking for a fresh, contemporary voice will love Kim Wong Keltner's sweet and funny debut novel, the story of a 20-something Chinese-American girl who was brought up on Spaghettios and now is looking for love and a stronger cultural identity. Lindsey Owyang, a third-generation San Franciscan, thinks of herself as a Twinkie -- yellow on the outside, white on the inside. She knows nothing about the Han dynasty but can recite endless dialogue from the The Brady Bunch. As a receptionist at the deeply correct magazine, Vegan Warrior, Lindsey is finding her way in the world. She is suspicious of creepy Caucasian men who show an unnatural interest in Asian women but is intrigued by the "white devil" in her office, who, like her, is a meat eater pretending to be vegan. It's great fun to watch Lindsey come to terms with office politics, her grandmother and her mah-jongg-playing friends, and her own budding romance with the white guy down the hall. Ginger Curwen
Publishers Weekly
Wong Keltner's spunky novel about a third-generation Chinese-American in San Francisco delivers a left hook to knee-jerk political correctness and offers a comic, honest take on what it feels like to be part of two cultures. Lindsey Owyang is a modern 20-something, underemployed as a receptionist at Vegan Warrior magazine (she's a "closet meat-eater"), who unexpectedly finds herself falling "in like" with Michael Cartier, the magazine's white travel editor. But dating's tough when you live at home with a traditional Chinese grandmother and even harder when that grandmother is constantly trying to set you up with the children of her mah-jongg partners. Meanwhile, Lindsay's aunt gets colored contacts (" `Don't you think I look at least half-white anyway?' "); a white friend says that Asian girls are stealing all the cute frat boys; and creepy "Hoarders of All Things Asian" accost her on the bus. Lindsey gets a chance to connect with her roots when she finds out that she's expected to accompany her grandmother to China to visit long-lost relatives. Here Lindsey finally gains a grounded sense of her personal and cultural past, while at the same time realizing that as an ABC (American-born Chinese), "every experience, even the unpleasant ones, had helped to slowly build her character, creating a one-of-a-kind Chinese American named Lindsey Owyang." Wong Keltner is unabashedly sassy and biting in her take on race and love, and the result is both refreshing and smart. (Feb.) Forecast: This breezy bicultural novel provides savvier entertainment than much of its more earnest competition. The cute title and nice price should encourage readers to give it a chance. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
First novelist Keltner tells the story of Lindsey Owyang, a 25-year-old receptionist living with her elderly Chinese grandmother in modern-day San Francisco. Growing up, she distanced herself from her Chinese heritage-her parents didn't serve her traditional food, she routinely skipped her after-school Chinese-language class, and she was ashamed of her infatuation with Hello Kitty. In college, she studied European literature, and throughout her life, she has always been attracted to white guys (though she is wary of "Hoarders of All Things Asian," or those with Asian fetishes). Living with her loving grandmother, however, Lindsey can't help but be immersed in Chinese culture. Eventually, the two travel to China, at which point this multicultural chick-lit tale delves deep into Amy Tan territory. Lindsey soon learns that appreciating her Chinese heritage does not make her as uncool as she feared. Peppered with trendy designer names and featuring a good-guy romantic interest, this urban coming-of-age tale is satisfying on many levels. Recommended for all public libraries.-Karen Core, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

The Dim Sum of All Things

Chapter One

The Dim Sum of All Things

Many strange tales have been told about sassy receptionists and their antics in the urban wild, but none so strange as the story of Miss Lindsey Owyang, a Chinese-American wage-slave who turned twenty-five last summer.

Lindsey was a fairly clever receptionist, but she was more than just a worker bee who had mastered the intricacies of voice mail and fax dialing. She was a third-generation San Franciscan of Chinese descent who could not quote a single Han Dynasty proverb, but she could recite entire dialogues from numerous Brady Bunch episodes. She knew nothing of Confucius and did not speak any Cantonese or Mandarin, but she had spent years studying the Western Canon and had learned to conjugate irregular French verbs. All that reading of European literature did her a heap of good now. When she graduated from college, prospective employers didn't care about her mastery of iambic pentameter; they just wanted her to answer the telephone and type with robotic efficiency.

She considered herself lucky to have landed her job at Vegan Warrior magazine. The publication was a style resource for the vegetarian community, and most articles featured organic food, hemp fashions, astrology, and eco-travel. In their mission statement, the editors bragged of their firm commitment to equality and social justice, but their philosophy didn't prevent them from summoning Lindsey to perform all their menial tasks. Each morning, she mopped spilled rice milk from the kitchen floor, and in the afternoons she was dispatched to retrieve soy lattes.

She and a few other closet meat-eaters had infiltrated the staff of smug Limoges-liberals who drank cruelty-free decaf. As the majority of employees stomped through the office in Birkenstocks and Chi Pants, Lindsey was an outcast because she wore makeup and owned one vintage sweater with a modest rabbit fur collar. Coworkers regarded her with suspicion, but she was happy enough to keep to herself.

When the phones weren't busy, she deionized the drinking water and scoured the tofu cheese from the inside of the microwave. While performing her various housekeeping duties she had time to ruminate on the philosophies of the various dead white men she had studied in college. However, as a modern Chinese-American woman, her worldview was quite different from theirs.

One day, as she unclogged a bloated gardenburger from the sink drain, she was pondering the existence of certain white males who were obsessed with Asian women. She called these men the Hoarders of All Things Asian, or just Hoarders, for short. These shy, Caucasian beta-males, with dirty blond hair and sallow complexions, moseyed through the world, blending effortlessly into the general population. But Lindsey had learned to spot them. Over the past few months she had been noticing that she attracted numerous stares from these nerdy white guys wearing tan jeans and vanilla-hued cardigans, and she deduced that their clothes were meant as some kind of urban camouflage. Their gray pallor, mixed with beige wardrobes, combined to create an overall "greige" appearance. And when they tried to pick up on her, saying garbled things like "Konichiwa, Chinese princess," she assumed they had bland, taupe personalities to match.

She had a theory that these neat'n'tidy nerds were disguised as "good guys" but were actually stealthy predators who feigned interest in Asian cuisine, history, and customs in hopes of attracting an exotic porcelain doll like those portrayed so fetchingly in pop culture movies and advertisements. These Hoarders of All Things Asian sought the erotic, hassle-free companionship they believed to be the specialty of lily-footed celestials, geishas, fan-tan dancers, and singsong girlies. They were unable to distinguish these fantasy ideals from modern women, and, like fishermen in sampans, tended to cast their nets toward any vaguely Asian-looking female, expecting to be lavished with the mysterious, untold delights of the Orient.

These creepy men frequently approached Lindsey at coffeehouses, on park benches, and in bookstores. She sometimes spotted one cruising Clement Street, or dining alone in a Chinese restaurant, or clinging to a ticket stub from the Pacific Rim film festival with clammy, froglike fingers. They trawled the land in search of Asian flesh, and she was sickened by the idea of being targeted as some kind of exotic sex toy.

She felt like she had discovered a new comet, and she monitored the night sky for potential dating dangers. She was convinced that, if Dante had been Chinese, he would have designated a specific circle of hell for the worst of these loathsome trolls. She liked to think of these fetishists cast into the Underworld, confined in a criblike pen where they could not escape to molest her. She wanted them corralled into a muddy pit, where they would remain, wallowing in miserable, Woodstock-like conditions for all eternity.

Although Lindsey was admittedly attracted to white boys, she shrewdly eliminated romantic candidates who exhibited any Hoarder tendencies. She hated the idea of some pervert zoning in on her because of her black hair, almond-shaped eyes, or any of the submissive, back-scrubbing fantasies her physical features might suggest to a large, clumsy mammal in tube socks.

Her wariness stemmed from the fact that she had convinced herself that her Chinese heritage was not one of the main components of her identity but was simply a superfluous detail. As far as she was concerned, her Chinese-ness was not the first thing someone should notice about her.

Walking home from work one day, she stopped at the video store to browse. As she perused the biography section with tapes about Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf, her mind drifted. She had always had romantic notions about becoming a famous author, but she often wondered if writers all had big fat butts and sat around in sweatpants all day. They all died depressed, crazy, and poverty-stricken. And that certainly wasn't what she wanted ...

The Dim Sum of All Things. Copyright © by Kim Keltner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

The only thing that keeps Kim Wong Keltner from writing is when she’s trapped under an avalanche of her daughter’s stuffed animals. Keltner is the author of The Dim Sum of All Things, Buddha Baby, and I Want Candy. Tiger Babies Strike Back is her first work of nonfiction.

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Dim Sum of All Things 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My book club selected this book to read for our August '08 meeting. The only reason that I finished the book was because I didn't want to let the club down. The first two-thirds of the book seem like something written to appeal to my sixth grade students. The last third is only marginally better and does not make the book worth reading overall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The title is daunting, this book has mild barly there humor, a main factor that draws me into books. Lindsey was just an average character, living an average life with her grandmother and everything is so average you just stop caring. I do agree with another reviewer, I thought as well that Lindsey was making up her romance with Micheal and I was so surprised when I found out that he didn't have 'a girlfriend on the side.' If you like China, pick up The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, if you like reading about something that can be found on a myspace.com, pick up The Dim Sum of All Things.
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i read the summary i was under the impression that this would be a great book. however by the first half of the book, i was increasingly disappointed. Lindsey, the protagonist, is a little on the pathetic side bordering on weird, especially after she stalks her love interest Michael. there was a point when i wondered if the 'chemistry' between her and Michael was all in her head. although there were two or three good moments, it wasn't enough to help the reader connect and get into the story. for those who is willing to read this novel, i believe the second half was a little better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If it were possible, I would give this book a zero. Lindsey's antics only bored me. She's immature, petty, tiresome and she makes the same complaints over and over again until I wanted to scream and fling the book across the room. I'm Chinese and I thought that it would be interesting to read another book about a Chinese-American who comes to terms with her culture, so I struggled to finish it without falling asleep in hopes that the ending might redeem the book - it didn't. The writing is stilted and repetitive, and the reader is never really drawn in. This is the worst book I have ever read. How did trash like this ever get published?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was so very disappointed with this book. The 'story' never pulled me in, I found myself feeling as though I didn't really care much for what was going on and by the middle of the book I was struggling through it. It was at the point where the main character experiences a vile mishap at a party that I lost any and all interest and just quickly skimmed through to the end. Definitely not the best purchase...
AriMoon More than 1 year ago
While love a bit of fluff in my reading selections, this completely missed the mark for me. It wasn't at all witty and the main protagonist  I found to be very unlikable from the get-go. She seems very self-important and hypocritical and I couldn't bring myself to care about her story. I enjoyed the glimpses into a more traditional home with the grandmother always brewing some concoction and the internal struggle of wanting to break away from tradition, but it wasn't enough for me to want to keep reading. I got about a fourth of the way and decided to donate it to Goodwill.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much, and not just because I used to live in San Francisco. I think the author made some interesting and often amusing points about stereotypes and how we judge others as well as how we evision ourselves in terms of our family, ethnic/racial identity, and culture. The central character is flawed, but that makes it a realistic portrayal. I thought it was a wonderful book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i loved this book so much i couldn't put it down! i cant wait to read books by you in the near future!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am not an Asian American, but I am a San Franciscan, and her writing of the city is perfect. Her humor is great, regardless of your culture or background. Who needs 'maturity' in comedic writing. Seriously, dude, lighten up. This book cracks me UP and I don't want to put it down. To ME that means it's a good book. And I'll recomend it to my friends. Good times! Good times!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so deliciously hip, an instant hit toward my direction. The author's witty writing style keeps you on hungry for more. This book is a wonderful dipiction of what it means to be Asian-American.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A hilarious book with lots of witticisms and real life stories that most Asian-Americans can relate to. Once you start reading it, you can't stop...
Guest More than 1 year ago
i could not put this book down, it was so funny although the plot is a little lacking in complexity and it can be predictable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book!!! i read it like 2 days. i could not put it down. Lindsey is so funny !!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Third generation San Franciscan twenty something Lindsey Owyang is a Chinese American wage slave earner working the menial tasks at Vegan magazine though she might be considered by much of the staff as an evil invader. She likes red meat, wears make-up and even has a bit of rabbit fur on a sweater ¿ no doubt heresy at Vegan. Lindsey has no identity crisis as she knows who she is. Any Asian who can quote the dialogue of the Brady Bunch, but could not cite one word from the Han Dynasty is obviously a Twinkie, yellow on the outside; white on the inside................................... However, having been raised on Spaghettios and not rice, Lindsey seeks a stronger tie with her heritage and would not mind finding the love of a lifetime too. Caucasian males need not apply because she does not trust the obsession many have with female Asians. Still Miles Olin a closet carnivore at vegan does look good for a white man, but any office romance with him will interfere with her quest for cultural awareness......................................... Though the heroine is third generation Chinese-American, any ethnic adjective would fit the bill as America has the tendency to assimilate the third generation, who is more McDonalds than old country. Lindsey is a great protagonist whose attitude immensely differs from her mother that is as wide as the Atlantic and from her grandmother which is as long as the Pacific. She is the center that keeps the tale from becoming a soggy noodle as Lindsey seeks to merge the dim sun culture of her heritage with her fast food childhood............................. Harriet Klausner