The Barbarians are Coming by David Wong Louie

The Barbarians are Coming

Sterling Lung grew up in the back of his parent's laundry dreaming about being a real American while speaking Chinese to his mother, English to his friends, and very little to the father he seemed always to disappoint. Now twenty-six and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Sterling cooks French food for the WASP ladies of a private club in Connecticut and conducts an arm's-length affair with an old Swarthmore classmate, a Jewish-Amer...

Details The Barbarians are Coming

TitleThe Barbarians are Coming
Release DateMar 1st, 2001
GenreFiction, Cultural, China, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Literature, Asian Literature

Reviews The Barbarians are Coming

  • EP
    What's happened to David Wong Louie? This was a gem of a book, and all the better, like a discovery of a hidden stash of chocolate, because I came in with middling expectations. I'd heard of him when I was in college..along with Maxine Hong Kingston et al. But since then...nada. Book jacket says that he's the author of the short story collection Pangs of Love, a New York Times Notable Book of 1991 and a Voice Literary Supplement Favorite of the s...
  • Kevin Keyaert
    This would probably count as my introduction to the East Asian immigrant experience subgenre, and I was certainly pleased that this book in fact picked me in the Oxfam bookshop, or was serendipitously handed to me at least.I felt the first part of the story had a solid build-up. It had all the right elements for what felt like an accurate portrayal of the emotional numbness that comes with the unending internal struggle of being stuck between app...
  • Darrin L
    In the novel, “The Barbarians Are Coming,” author, David Wong Louie, tells the story of Sterling Lung, a young chinese immigrant, who discards his past Chinese culture, and traditional beliefs despite the protest from his parents that wholeheartedly believe to tradition. Like most families that immigrated to America. Lung’s family hoped to be able to obtain the American Dream which leads to wealth and happiness. The novel mainly takes place...
  • Cathy
    All of the main characters in the book were completely unlikeable, which made it hard to finish the book. The main character’s loathing of his Chinese background seemed especially forced (he constantly has to remind the reader of how much he hates himself) to the point where his redemption at the end comes across as contrived. 3 stars instead of 1 because the writing was beautiful and the author is obviously a talented writer.
  • Sheila
    This is a very iffy 3 star, as I just couldn't feel empathy for any of the characters. Interesting take on the culture clash of immigrant parents and American born son. I found it very hard to follow the father's relationship with Lucy, his "American wife" just too unrelatable for me. The Chinese culture was quite interesting and I enjoyed the male point of view.
  • Allison Hogue
    I did not find Sterling that sympathetic through much of this novel, but the ending was touching and I feel that at least Sterling is a dynamic character, righting himself in the end to realize his place in the world.
  • Marsha
    I thought this book was very well written, and sad.
  • Paigu
    This is one of those hidden gems. This book is difficult to read because it is so "ugly", brutal and honest. No character in this book is very likeable, with exception to the children. But I feel the author poured his heart into this book (maybe wrote from personal experience?). This is an exceptionally realistic look into Asian-American culture, particularly the ABCs (American born Chinese) or first generation kids with immigrant parents. The pr...
  • Glen
    A good but, in my view, flawed work. What works well is the voice of the narrator, Sterling Lung, a Chinese-American chef who would rather cook French haute cuisine than the food everyone assumes he would be expert at preparing. His strained and strange relationship with his wife, Bliss, has some rich and dark humor, as does his depiction of his relationship with his Chinese parents, whose weird American sobriquets, Genius and Zsa Zsa, belie thei...
  • Ann G.
    I loved this book most of the way through, then felt it devolved into predictability and soap opera toward the end - although to Louie's credit, he did not eventually take the easy way out. Sterling Lung is American-born Chinese, a French chef who refuses his parents' desire that he be a good Chinese son and his patrons' desire that he be a Chinese chef. "Can't you make a Happy Family?" one diner asks. Well, that's what this book is about: the ha...
  • Rebecca
    Louie's work is a prime example of a style that Mark McGurl would call 'The Program Era', florid, intense, thoughtful writing that seems taught by an academic for an educated audience, something that swirls around university circles. The book is full of characters that may not be likeable, but are undeniably human in their weaknesses, like passive, pretty-much-useless Sterling and his domineering, bossy girlfriend. However, I do like section thre...
  • A
    The writing kept me glued to the book, and being a first-generation Asian American probably helped... especially with the part about the parents non-communicativeness about their pasts... I don't know if making up what might have happened/could have happened is necessary. But I liked the descriptions of what were going on in Sterling's head. That, I could emphasize with to a certain point, but not the part about the Chinese food tv program... Do ...
  • J.J. Warren
    I randomly found this book at a thrift store and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. This book was very well written. I immediately loved the style of writing which was smart and descriptive, using the most beautiful, creative or witty metaphors throughout. The author gave the main character, Sterling, such a sensitivity and insight into human emotion, including into his own depth of self. I learned quite a bit about Chinese culture. The...
  • Bach
    A really interesting Asian American read about a first generation Chinese male who gets conflicted between his desire to branch away from his ethnicity as a cook and take on a life as an American. It's an explicit and vulnerable read that pokes at many challenges faced by early generation Asian Americans, particularly those that are the first born in the US. One of the few books in its genre that I could not put down the second I opened it, very ...
  • Alyson
    Sterling was an absolute wimp who thought only of himself until the very end, and even that required both his son and father to die. A very bleak and frustrating story of Chinese immigrants and ABCs in America. The one good point goes to the chapter dedicated to Genius's first 8 years in the US without his family.
  • Sylvia
    Giving up on ethnic books for a while. OK story, but best part was a couple of hastily tossed out list of ingredients for dishes I ate as a child, but whose recipes I never got from my Mother, so I was very happy to find them. Not a memorable sentence in 300+ pages, I'd like a little more for my effort.
  • Nikson
    Really enjoyed this book. Great description by the author, I could imagine every scene as I read it. I could relate to most things, so that's a +.The ending was quite abrupt, ending too early. I hope there is a continuation to this story.
  • Caitlin
    this started out good, but 2/3 into the book it switches to the father's perspective, which is really boring. Couldn't quite get back into it after the book resumes from the son's viewpoint. Am almost done but loosing interest...some of the plot points seem pretty unrealistic.
  • Lisa
    I desperately wanted to enjoy this, but the self-indulgent masturbation scene with the protagonist spurting all over the rich women's club and the later rawness were too much--definitely unfinished. I had no idea what I was getting into or I wouldn't have started this book at all.
  • Diane
    enjoyed this one - hope the writer continues with more works
  • Amy Medina
    So far it is a bit slow, but I cannot stop reading it. I am reading other books along with this one, which may explain why I am not fully enjoying it.
  • Leigh
    Weird stuff
  • Judy Gee
    Good but a little dark.
  • Lauren Silverman
    This book is really funny!
  • Katherine
    Really great for the first two thirds but the end was disappointing.
  • Rod
    Disappointing. Can't recommend it unless you enjoy pointless angst.