News / Asia

    Q&A with Alex Tizon: ‘Big Little Man’

    FILE - Asian Americans growing up in the United States, especially in Southern California, are having a different experience than their counterparts 20 to 30 years ago.
    FILE - Asian Americans growing up in the United States, especially in Southern California, are having a different experience than their counterparts 20 to 30 years ago.

    Who are we, where did we come from, where are we going? All basic questions humans have always asked and contemplated. The self-queries are especially poignant for anyone who has moved to a part of the world where people seem very different. 

    Alex Tizon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a longtime staff writer for the Seattle Times, is now teaching at the University of Oregon. In his book Big Little Man, written from his personal perspective in his late teens, Tizon shares what it means to be male and Asian in America, and for that matter, human anywhere in the world.

    Q&A with Alex Tizon: ‘Big Little Man’
    Q&A with Alex Tizon: ‘Big Little Man’i
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    TIZON: The issue of masculinity and Asian-ness has been on my consciousness for a long, long time. The birth of the idea and the title came from Manny Pacquiao, who’s a boxer from the Philippines, and was called “a big little fighter” by one of the [TV] announcers. I actually thought about writing a book about him, addressing the same issue of masculinity and “Asianness,” some of the stereotypes of Asian-American men. I ended up just writing a book about myself because I have experienced a lot of things in my 50 years in the United States.

    STEVENSON: What were some of the issues that you dealt with specifically as you grew up [in the 1970s]?

    TIZON: I think there has been a long-running notion in the West that Asia was a continent of people that were really conquerable. That people from Asia were weak, they were small in all ways - including physically small, geopolitically small, economically small – all of which are changing, of course. I definitely grew up with the notion that Asian men in particular were toward the bottom of the hierarchy of manhood. I didn’t think it was even possible for someone like me to do anything terribly great. I actually graduated from high school [in] 1977, unable to name a single East Asian figure who was a force for good.

    STEVENSON: A good bit of your book deals with the size issue, if you will, from the perception of Asians being small in stature to the more personal aspects – which I understand your wife wasn’t too thrilled with you writing about.

    TIZON: Well, yeah. She thought it was just juvenile. A lot of women think of this issue as juvenile and kind of a male pre-occupation. Yes, there are the sexual stereotypes. The thing about stereotypes as we all know, there is often truth in them, but it’s almost always a partial truth.

    STEVENSON: Alex, I can’t ignore two chapters of your book, they come early, one is called “Seeking Hot Asian Babes” and if that weren’t enough, “Babes Continued.”

    TIZON: (Laughs) Yes, yes. Those titles are meant as satirical. I spent most of the book talking about what it is like being a young Asian man growing up in the West and some of the challenges I faced. I couldn’t ignore the fact that Asian women and Asian-American women and girls faced their own set of challenges and hardships very different from the kinds that I faced. But it was definitely worth exploring, definitely worth spending two chapters talking about. I have six sisters, I was raised by essentially two mother figures, I was surrounded by Asian women all my life and so I saw firsthand what they had to deal with.

    STEVENSON: There’s so much good first-person material in this book, our audience really has to pick it up and read it to get all of the wonderful stories that you’ve written, what specifically would you like our audience to know about right now about your book?

    TIZON: Ironically, even though I spent most of the book talking about race, talking about Asians and Blacks and Whites, and looking through the lens of race and interpreting my own experience, I have actually come to a conclusion at the end of the book that race is not the best lens to look at my experience or the experience of other people. I had to deal with the great problem of shame, which, in my life, had formed around the issue of race.

    But everyone, at some point, deals with the idea that they don’t live up to some ideal and live with a certain kind of shame, being not tall enough, not thin enough, maybe you don’t have enough money, maybe you come from the wrong family or don’t have enough education. The idea that humanity is divided into these separate and distinct and disparate groups with clear boundaries has been disproven by science a long time ago, decades ago. Humanity really is more of a continuum, and that people belong on the same continuum and there are no clear breaks between these so-called races. I think it makes much more sense to talk about population groups, to talk about ethnicities which have to do more with culture than any kind of biological factors.


    Jim Stevenson

    For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora