Interview with Alex Tizon on His Memoir "Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self" | Speaking of China

24 Responses

  1. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen September 12, 2014 at 8:44 am | | Reply

    My two favorite parts of this interview are the discussion of the philosopher-warrior and Alex’s answer about a more enlightened way to identify himself.

    Regarding the philosopher-warrior: As a woman, I find it disappointing when a man considers that his masculinity is dependent on only the warrior side. I respect a man who is both strong AND wise.

    Regarding how to identify oneself: How sad and simplistic it is for any of us to be identified by one small characteristic! It may be somewhat better to be known as a Filipino-American rather than simply an Asian. But Alex and all of us are so much more than our race. I liked the long compound sentence he used to describe himself. If only we would all take the time to learn that much about each other.

    1. Rdm
      Rdm September 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm | | Reply

      Same sentiment here as well.

  2. Sveta
    Sveta September 12, 2014 at 3:08 pm | | Reply

    My Korean ex often complained that people thought him as Chinese when in fact he’s from Korea. (At this point I’m surprised he was with me because when we first met I thought he was Chinese…)

    To also be honest, if I’m with an Asian man, they constantly ask me about the small penis myth which becomes annoying. I tell them I don’t believe it, and that for me endurance was far more important. (Not meaning to turn this discussion into a small penis myth.)

    I also never liked the whole Western idea of tough male without emotion. (I do admit openly that the best memories of my dad is when he’s with dachshund and he’s happy.) I do hope that warrior-philosopher idea catches on more instead of disappearing.

  3. hopelessmisanthrope
    hopelessmisanthrope September 12, 2014 at 3:40 pm | | Reply

    I honestly believe that the kind of discrimination heaped on Asian men in the west constitute a new kind of underhanded, subversive genocide. It’s the most subversive ever. The sneakiest and the one that will take the longest to notice because of its subversive nature. It’s a slow genocide that seeks to destroy a group by destroying any self esteem and sense of self worth first then the group.

  4. Rdm
    Rdm September 13, 2014 at 1:54 am | | Reply

    Hollywood Whitewashing on Asians based on real live

    (1) 21
    Jim Sturgess, the white guy, played the guy who exploited Las Vegas with his improved method of card counting; a scene where he mentally calculated the price on the spot for the customer asking the price after sale tax, discount, bla bla bla, leaving the customer mouth agape literally with his incredible mathematical skills.

    The real guy in real life –> Jeff Ma

    If you think “Well, it’s Hollywood, nobody actually cares”, I’d say how about Hollywood shooting a film based on Howard Hughes aviator real life and cast “Jackie Chan” as Howard Hughes? if nobody really cares.

    (2) Extraordinary Measure
    Harrison Ford, the white guy, who miraculously developed a cure for Pompe disease. Without giving in to the monetary pressure, he persistently pursued his dream of finding a cure, sometimes clashing with the financing authority, being impatient with his lab colleagues procrastination, ultimately leading the audience to believe that how a White guy can achieve something so unbelievable and something so incredible.

    The real guy in real life –> Yuan-Tsong Chen

    Just imagine Thomas Edison toying with his whole life on something we should be thankful for coming years for “lights bulb” and Hollywood makes a film, casting “Chow Yun-fat” as Mr. Edison?

    Hollywood whitewashing on Asians based on fictions, novels characters

    (3) Dragon Balls
    The guy who can spit fire, with those thick spiky hairs, whom we Asians hold as “Superman” in our childhood, suddenly become a White guy.
    –> Imagine Superman was cast with an Asian guy, and Lois will be Ms. white girl.

    (4) 47 Ronin
    47 Samurai known as Ronin, suddenly became half Asian guy whom most of the Americans find it hard to identify which ethnicity Keanu Reeve is actually.

    (5) Hunger Games
    Battle Royale copycat, the whole story is based on survival instincts of each and individual who are isolated from the normal society. You can’t even trust your loved one because the game only allows one person to survive.

    (6) Inception
    Oh Leonardo, what a magnificent stroke of skills and storytelling by Chris Nolan on how one can control the other person mind through dream when you’re asleep. Well, “Paprika” is a Japanese animated film, story largely based on hypnotizing someone through their dreams. Chris Nolan openly admitted he got his idea from Paprika.

    Don’t get me started on how screwed up the Hollywood is.

    Every scene you’d see Black doctors, scientists, engineers, authorities, etc etc etc. In real life? Come to America. You see NONE. They pamper Blacks so that they won’t revolt. In fact, most of those high paying jobs, you’d see more Asians in real life. Professors, scientists, engineers, name one, and you’d see Asians.

    In Hollywood America, you’re bound to see more Asian guys portrayed in emasculated, nerdy, babbling MORE OFTEN than what the US symbols represents –> A Bald Eagle.

    1. Bejarano
      Bejarano February 23, 2016 at 6:26 pm | | Reply

      Don’t be so damn ungrateful. Asian-Americans as a whole have benefited greatly from the battles fought for civil rights by African Americans.

      The reason there are more African-Americans in Hollywood is because there are more quality actors, scriptwriters and directors.

      Do you think they get fair breaks? Spike Lee, only last year went out publicly how he still had to fund his own films because Hollywood aren’t interested in funding him, and he is a world famous director.

      Hollywood is massively prejudiced against Asian-Americans, this has been proven with the casting of Emma Stone in Aloha. It is wrong that this is still happening in the 21st century.

      But the same happens with Hispanics (Gang bangers and creepy lotharios) Native Americans and Native Hawaiians. What about them? Or are you only bothered about lobbying for your own group.

      And that is the problem, if you won’t go out to bat for others, sure as hell no-one will go out and bat for you, except African-Americans did and you should show a bit of damn gratitude.

      1. Rdm
        Rdm February 23, 2016 at 11:41 pm | | Reply

        Let’s be realistic. African Americans have never been pro-active for other minority. That’s the fact. Either you like it or not, I have no damn gratitude. That’s the bottom line.

        When the last time SAG went with Diversity, so much beautiful, there’s no Asian Americans at all. When they talk about Diversity, they only consider having “Blacks” in the group.

        When Blacks said Black Lives Matter, they only go for “Black Lives”, no other Lives matter.

        When I said Hollywood Whitewash, I only meant to say “White Washing”, not “Diversity” per se.

        I’m fine with White people acting their own roles, and be an actor or actress. But Blacks in fact are greedy when it comes to casting choice. They’re not fine with having only White actors. They demand every movie need at least One Black cast, calls for diversity. Not a single Asian/Hispanic/Latino cast, but just a Black presence in every movie.

        Has Spike Lee ever cast an Asian American in his movie?

        When you asked if I only lobby for my own group, do me a favor, and read my comment thoughtfully.

        I lobby for Fair and Justice. I did not, and won’t lobby for “Diversity” every time I got screwed. If Hollywood cast a White guy in Iron Man, I’m fine with that. If Hollywood cast a Black guy in MLK documentary, I’m fine with that.

        What I find it ridiculous is, if Hollywood starts casting a White guy in Mao Zedong documentary, that’s a utter falsification of historical event.

        All the movies I listed above had to do with those falsification. For that, I don’t have a damn gratitude towards Blacks for that matter. For that falsification, Neither Blacks or Hispanic groups have stepped forward to ask for Fair and Justice from Hollywood.

        Did you?

        1. bejarano
          bejarano February 24, 2016 at 6:42 am | | Reply

          Did Asian Americans benefit from the civil rights movement?

          Yes or no?

          I think the answer is yes, but who were missing from the civil rights movement were of course, Asian Americans, there were blacks, whites, Jews, Hispanics – you can name the famous people of that movement from those ethnic groups, and now, you want the white man to represent you in Hollywood because you are like the snivelling, weedy, weak, wimp in the playground, you want others to do the bidding and the fighting, just like you let African Americans fight and win you some civil rights.

          The only people who can break down the door for Asian Americans in Hollywood are Asian Americans. The biggest Hollywood film starring Asian Americans was written by two white men. Keep letting white men write your stories, then don’t complain when you don’t like the result.

          Has Spike Lee ever cast Asian Americans in his films? Go and watch them again, but check out ‘Do The Right Thing’ for a very sympathetic portrayl of Asian Americans living in black communities.

          What you seem to be doing is getting a load of situations and trying to tie them up, is Will Smith lobbying for black actors? He is, in this particular case, but this has nothing to do with ‘civil rights’ rather than his own self advancement. Hollywood has done wrong to Asian Americans, that I already said in my original post. But your enemy is not the African American, some are out for themselves, do you think Will Smith cares about diversity or racism? No. Is that the same for all African-Americans, and the answer to that is also no.

          Your enemy are the rich and powerful of all colours, but you as an Asian American, should be on your knees to African Americans because up until 1965, they and other brave people of colour were fighting your battles, not many – if any – Asian Americans were on the march to Selma (for example).

          I’ll ask you this, did your parents or grandparents fight for their civil rights?

          If they were born in Asia, you have black people for the change in law in 1965 where your family were able to emigrate to the States, black people and the civil rights movement made that possible, you are welcome

          1. Rdm
            Rdm February 24, 2016 at 9:06 am |

            This is the most hilarious comment I’ve read in a while.

            Every Asian American achievement, we owe something to Black people.

            Every Asian American immigration, we owe something to Blacks. We’re not even talking about Civil Rights movement here. But you intentionally brought up.

            Ok here we go.

            Go and study “Yuri Kochiyama” before you spew out any gratitude AA owe to Blacks.

            By the way, we’re not talking about Civil Rights movement here.

            I didn’t say I like Whites to represent AA. I said Hollywood whitewashed AA achievement. Are your brain cells dead?

            Besides, CEA was introduced in 1882 and finally repealed in 1943.

            1965? Are you in the rabbit hole? So we owe gratitude to Blacks. Jezus F Christ. Chinese immigration and Black civil rights movement has nothing in common.

            That’s why I heard people (including Whites) whisper in your back that “Blacks think everyone on this planet owe something to them.”

            Go and watch in youtube.

            By the way, I’m not hating on Blacks. I’m just saying, you think every AA owe some kind of gratitude to Blacks, which is utterly ridiculous.


            I’m not coming back again.

        2. Bejarano
          Bejarano February 24, 2016 at 12:46 pm | | Reply

          No, that would be like saying that every black achievement in America, a debt is owed to the people who freed them. What I am saying is simple, Asian Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the civil rights movement for fighting for social justice on their behalf.

          Thank you for name check of Yuchi Konchiyama – interesting to read about her. There weren’t many more was there? As for Hollywood, they just ignore Asian American achievements – ignoring the 555 battalion is a semi-criminal act but they will continue to do this until we get more Asian American writers, directors and scriptwriters.

          Yes, 1965! Look up the 1965 immigration and nationality act, all down to the civil rights movement which allowed millions of Asians the opportunity to make their lives better by going to America. Who do you think forced that issue?

          You want to stop listening to stupid people whispering to you. It doesn’t make it true. What you need to do is read up on the civil rights movement and what benefits it brought for Asian Americans, black people did that for you, be grateful.

      2. Svetlana
        Svetlana February 24, 2016 at 10:15 am | | Reply

        First of all let’s be civil here Bejarano. (No pun intended.) The only demographic that Hollywood is fair to is white men. Everyone else got shafted into negative stereotypes, or else became invisible. (Why don’t I ever see movies that focus on Judaism from a woman’s point of view? Why aren’t there movies about growing up as an immigrant from another country? Why are there barely any brunette actresses that have positive and uplifting roles instead of demon ones? Why as a child did I have to suffer from low self esteem and hatred of myself due to Hollywood?)

        Asian-Americans do have a lot of talent when it comes to writing, acting, directing and so forth. Every group has writers and directors that can act as voices for minorities, but its lack of roles and interest in Asian-American issues that are with holding them back. In order to give a cinematic voice to one’s story, you need lots and lots of money as well as support from those in power to make sure the movie succeeds. Sad but true.

        And if we’re talking about the civil rights, I can say that if it weren’t for Jewish or other white people that sacrificed their lives for the cause, African Americans would never have gotten civil rights in the first place. In history, Asian-Americans went through civil rights way before African-Americans have, and this is something that’s not studied.

        I have nothing against African American men and women, but simply speaking, I’m tired of other minority groups not being included when the word diversity enters into vocabulary. Let’s be honest, most people think diversity equals being African-American. Being Asian, Latino, Native American,biracial, etc. doesn’t enter into their minds. Heck, ethnic minority groups don’t enter into people’s minds either when speaking of the word diversity. Instead of using attention that African Americans gain from those in power for others and being helpful, they don’t do that; they don’t speak out against injustices of other groups. Have any African Americans spoken out against what is going in Europe with the Jews right now? Have any African Americans protested of how Asian-American men and women get cast into movies as either an asexual male or a lustful China doll? Have any African Americans decided to film the immigrant struggle of Latinos coming over here illegally?

        Also as well, why have I never heard of BET award Caucasians, Latinos, Native Americans or even Asian Americans for capturing the African-American experience, yet there is demand that SAG include more “diverse” (African-American) stars and movies? And why aren’t African Americans pointing out that more races should be included in SAG?

        Jocelyn, if my comment is offensive or violates your rules, please take it down.

  5. Manny
    Manny September 13, 2014 at 2:25 am | | Reply

    I liked the concept of “Yellow Fever” which I have no shame in admitting that I have. I cannot believe that Alex Tizaon was so troubled by seeing many white men with young Asian girls. If he is troubled by seeing many old white men paying for the affection of the teenage girl who were 15-years old, then I agree that it is disgusting as they are exploiting children and engaging in prostitution. But if a white man whether elderly or young is capable of using his beauty, skills, and sexual prowess to get the younger (not teenage or child) Asian girl, I do not think that he should be condemned for doing so. After all, Asian boys are free to try to pickup on white girls. So, don’t forget that it is a two way street also.

    I find it strange that if an elderly white man is seen with a young pretty Asian girl, he is criticized. But yet if an elderly Chinese man is seen with a young pretty white girl, no one gives a “f _ _ _.” He might even be praised for his Asian prowess but never condemned. Don’t you think that the world is now engaging in some form of reverse discrimination?

    1. BBC
      BBC September 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm | | Reply

      Ok behalf of all poc, I think this guy need to be euthanize in his sleep.

  6. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason September 13, 2014 at 5:04 am | | Reply

    I love this interview and I love Alex Tizon’s book. I agree that it should be required reading for your blog viewers (!), but would also like to see it added to high school English curricula. I think college would be too late.

  7. Sveta
    Sveta September 13, 2014 at 5:41 am | | Reply

    Oh, forgot to mention, in case if either Celeste Ng or Alex Tizon are interested, I can review their books on my blog 🙂

  8. R Zhao
    R Zhao September 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm | | Reply

    I’m loving the book reviews. I just started reading Caroline Ng’s novel and I’m really enjoying it. I want to read this one next.

    I agree with what Nicki said about masculinity and also identity. It’s too bad most of us have such a narrow view of these concepts.

    I think some of the other comments here are very interesting. I agree with Manny that “Yellow Fever” doesn’t bother me so much. As long as both parties are consenting in the relationship, that’s fine. What I don’t like is when white men bash on white women. And I do wish Asian men weren’t overlooked by white/black/Latino women. They can make great partners.

    Rdm’s comments about Hollywood whitewashing are interesting. I think this might start to change as Asian actors become more famous. Part of the problem is picking a lead that is well-known and adored, which, sadly is usually a white or perhaps a black guy.

  9. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian September 15, 2014 at 10:57 pm | | Reply

    Ah ha, sometimes we trouble ourselves to no end. Just take your tea and say ‘I am who I am. And who are you? It is getting crowded here. The tea is getting cold. But you could join me if you want to’

  10. Bejarano
    Bejarano February 23, 2016 at 6:18 pm | | Reply

    What do you think would be said if Tizon had used old men hiring rent boys as an example of gay relationships, he would be crucified, and rightly so.

    If his epitome example of a mixed race relationship has to involve prostitution and paedophilia then shame on him.

  11. Svetlana
    Svetlana May 19, 2017 at 12:45 pm | | Reply

    Sad news: on March 23rd of this year Alex Tizon has passed away. RIP

  12. ManilaMemories
    ManilaMemories December 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm | | Reply

    I am currently reading “Big Little Man,” and writing down my thoughts and impressions about the late Alex Tizon and he relates to me as we are both of Philippine-descent and that we both arrived and lived in America starting at a young age. Yet, I find so much to dislike about him, having paid close attention to details regarding his life experiences, attitudes, and especially how he viewed himself within the context of our shared cultural/ethnic background….Perhaps not surprisingly, the issues I raise receive scant attention based on the book reviews that I have read.

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