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The Chopsticks-Fork Principle, A Memoir and Manual
by Cathy Bao Bean

Comments by readers and reviewers:   Please click here to read a sampling of the comments we've received about Cathy's book. Comments by readers and reviewers:  Please click here to read a selection of comments from readers and reviewers of Cathy's book.
Excerpts from The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:  Please click here to read excerpts from Cathy's book, The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:  A Memoir and Manual. Excerpts from The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:  Please click here to read selected excerpts from Cathy's book.

Bookcover image of The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:  A Memoir and Manual by Cathy Bao Bean Rooted in the telling of one family's life, The Chopsticks-Fork Principle: A Memoir and Manual by Cathy Bao Bean is a story for all families.

In this humorous and poignant memoir, the author, an immigrant from China, recounts how she figured out how to be herself, as well as raise a son whose artist father did things like paint the lawn.

As Cathy Bao Bean attempts to satisfy disparate cultural norms, she provides us with a unique window into the experience of a bicultural family.

The Chopsticks-Fork Principle also explains how anyone who steps outside the home can benefit by greater awareness of the diversity within and around us.

"No father - especially an immigrant from China - says to his daughter, "Please, marry an artist" says Bao Bean.

Memoir and Manual

The book is a memoir. In the author’s words, “In 1959, when I was a Junior in Teaneck High School, I learned about Hybrid Vigor in Biology class. The idea was that when two different strains of corn were crossed, the result was greater than was normal for either parent type. In 1974, when I was a new mother in the maternity ward, I wondered if the same principle couldn't be deliberately applied to cultures - in our case, the Chinese and American.
• Physically we had the makings for such an experiment. Our newly born son was half Asian, half Caucasian.
• Intellectually, I formulated his prospects from the wealth of his dual heritage, translating his ancestors' stories into a future neither side could have imagined, yet both had anticipated to some degree.
• Practically, I worried just how much difference it would make that he wasn't an ear of corn.”

The book is also a manual that explains how anyone who steps outside the home can benefit by greater awareness of the diversity within and around us. “The Politically Correct may have thrown out the ‘melting pot’ and replaced its brew with ‘tossed salad and dressing’ or ‘smorgasbord,’ but in their recommendations for society's diet, the menus never explain how we individual ingredients are to be grown and prepared.”

In Cathy Bao Bean’s book, she starts with “The Facts,” including:
• I was born, Bao Kwei-yee China in the Year of the Water Horse, during the 77th or 78th Cycle (depending on which book you consult).
• Four years later, my parents, older sister, Bette, and I arrived in Brooklyn. My younger sister, SanSan, stayed in China.
• One day later, Bette and I were enrolled in Public School #8. I spoke no English. Bette could say "Lucky Strike" and "Shut up." The Principal let her skip 2 grades and made me do kindergarten twice.
• In 1949, we moved to Elmwood Park, NJ. I started to think in English and forget in Chinese.

The author then proceeds to tell “The Stories” of being a student in Teaneck, graduating from Tufts University and Claremont Graduate School, only to do the one thing that no parent of any culture ever recommends to their daughter -- marry an artist.
After their son is born, Bao Bean begins to understand why they may have had a point-- and why she would never be bored. She also figures out:
• How to say “I love you” in English and in Chinese.
•Whether identity crises and toilet training are more stressful with or without a subconscious.
• If her Menopausal Theory of Cooking is gender specific.
• If the Tooth Fairy can survive The Melting Pot.

Black and white photograph of author Cathy Bao BeanCathy Bao Bean has been a daughter, business manager, aerobics instructor, mother, friend, writer, sister, educational consultant, wife, and activist for the NJ Council for the Humanities. She was a Philosophy professor, cook, student, carpool driver, volunteer for executive boards, and is an active member of the Society for Values in Higher Education. Her book ends with the adding of another auspicious title: mother-in-law.

None of it has been painless, but all of it has been fun, except the cooking.

Since 1986, We Press has promoted a range of cultural and multicultural creative writings. Bao Bean’s book is no exception. Rooted in the telling of one family’s life—one woman’s life, the tale is a story for all families.

The Chopsticks-Fork Principle is a story about how to reconcile the expectations of (extended) families and society at large, and how to raise a child in a respectful context while also choosing the “path less traveled.” Race, class, and gender issues are imbedded seamlessly within the narrative.

As Cathy Bao Bean attempts to satisfy disparate cultural norms, she provides us with a unique window into the experience of a bicultural family. Through her, we experience what it's like to be a "hybrid" coming of age in the late twentieth century. In doing so, the reader finds not angst, but some wisdom and a lot of good cheer.

This is a book to give to sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers; artists are implicit. The Chopsticks-Fork Principle will circulate as a cult classic because of this family’s rare combinations, and as a popular listing because it deals with ordinary family issues in a practical way. The book is pure, it is heartfelt, it is important. Editor Amy Hufnagel says, “This book makes you laugh and wonder, maybe cry, and it will certainly charm and entertain you while you ponder your “knows.”

image of set of chopsticks and a fork from bookcover of Cathy Bao Bean's book, The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:  A Memoir and Manual.

 

 

Save the Dates
Wednesday - Friday
June 6 - 8, 2012

Author Cathy Bao Bean will be teaching at the SVHE Summer Workshop for Teachers at University of International Business & Economics, Beijing. Please link here for more details.

Bilingual Reader
The Chopsticks-Fork Principle, A Bilingual Reader
Cathy and co-author DongDong Chen invite you to learn more about The Chopsticks-Fork Principle X 2: A Bilingual Reader (English and Chinese Edition) -- a unique, bilingual, cross-cultural reader.
Read about it
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Click here to order The Chopsticks-Fork Principle X 2: A Bilingual Reader (paperback only).





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