This trilogy of novellas tells tales of the Philippines in the voices of Chinese immigrant children. The first two, “Tomato Street and Other War Zones” and “My Yellow Brother,” take us through the streets and back alleys of Manila, where young students from a Chinese-language private school fall into traps set by themselves and by others. The last story, “Lovers,” describes the sex trade of small, by-the-hour hotels, the effects of prostitution on families, and the turbid waters of early sexual awakening.
Based on the author’s own experience teaching Chinese in the Philippines, Tomato Street takes us on a tour of emotional battlefields, like personal and collective identity, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation. His writing surprised Taiwan’s literary world with its boldness, distinctive voice, and piercing insight. This is a book for everyone who has not known how to answer the question Who am I? – which is to say that it’s a book for everyone.