The Newspaper of the University of Waterloo Engineering Society
Iron Warrior - Arts & Entertainment - Friday, October 12, 2001 - Volume 22, Issue 14

Review; "Banana Boys" by Terry Woo
Steph Purnel
2B Chemical

Banana Boys is the first novel of Terry Woo, who graduated from Systems Design, U of W, in 1996. The term "Banana" refers to Chinese-born Canadians--yellow on the outside, white on the inside, also known as juk sing ("hollow bamboo"). One character says "trying to articulate [the Essence of Banana] to certain people is like trying to nail marmalade to the wall." I think Woo does a good job with the explanation.

The novel tells the stories of five "banana" friends in their mid-twenties and their crises to find their individual places in the world. They have never felt like they belonged--even their families make fitting in difficult for them by various devices, including, of course, guilt. They all meet at the University of Waterloo, and spend much of their time at the Bomber, drinking away their neuroses. The story goes back and forth through time as the characters reminiss about their respective childhoods and university experiences, and the "present" of the novel is a few years after graduation, when they have all settled into life. Jobs or grad school have become routine. The exception is Rick, who is striving for World Domination, but even in his monologues it seems like he is approaching life with a certain methodology, and not really enjoying himself, however much he may think he is. Rick seems to have it all, everything the Bananas are striving for, yet the characters pay their last respects to him when he is found dead in his apartment. Part of the story is told from Rick younger sister's perspective. You may think that listening to people complain about their childhoods is not entertaining, but Woo makes it funny and interesting. There is depth to their experiences, and some of this is contributed to by the excellent weaving and clarity of family, aquintances and memories each character possesses.

The "Banana Boys" is fun, while at the same time being serious in a sometimes not-too-subtle way. It attacks the niche of Canadian-born Chinese that is growing in Canada, and forces you to recognize them. And while reading this book, I smiled at the familiar language used by the characters and their mind processes reminded me of my friends. As hokey as it seems, there was a quality to the characters that made me think of parallel people in my life, which made me like the characters even more. This book is a good read, and may be especially relevant to Waterloo students because of the large Asian population on campus.

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