By Samantha Pak
Northwest Asian Weekly
By Dan Clark
Many people have heard of ‘roid rage. It often comes up when people discuss steroids and its side effects.
But what is it?
In “Gladiator,” Dan Clark — also known as Nitro of the original “American Gladiators” — gives readers a firsthand account of what ’roid rage is. He opens up about his life and his 20-year battle with steroid addiction.
Born to a Japanese mother and a white father, Clark’s story begins when his parents get a divorce. Clark and his older brother Randy move to Minnesota with their father (who leaves them with an aunt and uncle after he goes to Vietnam for work). Clark’s younger sister Christine stays with their mother in California.
Clark’s story is not pretty. He has to cope with his brother’s death at an early age, deal with a womanizing father who has no qualms about bringing prostitutes into the house, and deal with the constant need to shine in the spotlight.
This need to shine introduces Clark to steroids. He begins using them as a way to heal quickly from a football injury, however, he soon becomes obsessed with his desire to bulk up faster.
Clark is honest about his addiction and does nothing to sugarcoat its effects on his life. From getting into a bloody fight with his best friend, to destroying hotel rooms, to growing breasts, to having a near heart attack, Clark leaves nothing out.
Some parts of Clark’s life, such as how he grows up denying that he is half Asian and how he is initially reluctant to acknowledge his son, are difficult to read about. But it is when he finally learns Japanese and reaches out to his son that you realize, even though Clark made mistakes — albeit, very big ones — he has learned from them. Through writing his story, he hopes that others will learn from them as well.
“The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Adventures in the World of Chinese Food”
By Jennifer 8. Lee
With her passion — some may call it an obsession — for Chinese food, Jennifer 8. Lee dives into the world of Chinese restaurants. But her mission soon becomes more complex as her initial quest raises more questions.
Who came up with the original recipe for chop suey, a dish that is actually American with no Chinese roots? What is the connection between General Tso and his famous chicken? What makes soy sauce, soy sauce? Why do Jewish people love Chinese food so much?
And finally, the Asian dessert equivalent to the chicken-egg conundrum:
Who created the fortune cookie? The Chinese or the Japanese?
The answers may surprise you.
Lee argues that Chinese food is as American as apple pie. Lee asks, “How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?”
I agree with Lee. Chinese food is up there with McDonalds and Starbucks in terms of availability. It’s difficult to travel around this country without coming across at least one Chinese restaurant in each town — no matter how small — you visit.
Although most of Lee’s adventures, such as her search for the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world, are lighthearted and entertaining, she also delves into the serious side of the business. She explores the relationship between restaurants and illegal immigrants, the toll that a restaurant can have on the family that owns it, and the dangers of being a Chinese deliveryman.
Lee’s book makes you think about Chinese food in this country, which is more American than Chinese. She will make you stop and consider things you probably wouldn’t have otherwise, such as the restaurant workers’ origins, how many owners a particular business has gone through, and whether Chinese people would eat there.
The mark of a good Chinese restaurant, after all, is whether Chinese people eat there.
“A Million Shades of Gray”
By Cynthia Kadohata
At the age of 13, Y’Tin Eban wants nothing more than to become an elephant trainer.
The year is 1975 and Vietnam is still at war. American troops have left the country, leaving Y’Tin’s people, the Dega, and the rest of South Vietnam on their own to fight the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong.
Despite the escalating danger around him, all Y’Tin can think about is elephants. He wants to spend as much time as he can with Lady, his domesticated elephant.
But when North Vietnamese forces invade his village and he is separated from his family, Y’Tin is taken as a prisoner. His priorities shift from becoming an elephant trainer to getting out alive and reuniting with his family.
Y’Tin’s experiences test him not only physically but mentally and emotionally as he figures out how to escape and keep himself and Lady alive. In the process, he learns who his true friends are.
“A Million Shades of Gray” tells a story not many people know about. It’s a story about how the Vietnam War affected the Dega, the people indigenous to the Central Highlands in Vietnam.
Readers will root for Y’Tin as he travels through the jungle in search of his family and the rest of his village. He learns that promises can be broken and that adults he trusts the most don’t always have the answers to life’s questions, and those questions don’t always have yes or no answers. Most things fall somewhere in between — in the gray area.
Despite his struggles, Y’Tin never gives up his dream to train elephants. Reading how Y’Tin remains focused on his aspirations will encourage young readers to follow their dreams and work through any obstacles they may face. His story is inspiring to read because it can be so easy to give up on our dreams. ♦
Samantha Pak can be reached at email@example.com.