Reader's Guide

  1. In “The Price of Eggs in China,” what qualities distinguish and link Marcella Ahn, Caroline Yip, and Dean Kaneshiro? How do they differ in their opinions about the function of art and the role of artists? Why is Caroline so angry when she discovers the extent of Dean’s artistic success?

  2. In many of the stories, author Don Lee describes a character’s profession or special talent. How does learning about this aspect of the character’s life shape our perception? Discuss other characters in this collection who are defined by their jobs and avocations.

  3. In your judgment, who was Caroline’s mysterious prank caller: Marcella, as Dean chooses to believe, or Caroline herself, as Marcella claims? How does this mystery affect the outcome of the story?

  4. Much of the story “Voir Dire” covers the trial of drug addict Chee Seng Lam, who is accused of murdering the child of his girlfriend, Ruby Liu. How does their situation compare to Hank Low Kwon and Molly Beddle’s? What questions of moral accountability are raised?

  5. How is the symbol or motif of water used in this and other stories in the book?
  6. Alan Fujitani, the main character of “Widowers,” is captivated by the young widow Emily Vieira, but he holds on to his dead wife’s memory with great respect and devotion-perhaps too much. What is it about Emily that he finds admirable and attractive? Does meeting Emily change Alan?

  7. Annie Yung becomes a regular at the Lone Night Cantina, “where she thought she belonged, in the cheatin’ heart world of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline songs.” Why does Korean-American Annie seem to find solace in dressing the part of a blond cowgirl with a Southern twang? How does Don Lee play with symbols of American culture in the story?

  8. This story closes with Annie not riding into the sunset but driving in the rain. The choice between pragmatism and romantic escape or even delusion appears to echo throughout the collection. Discuss how this choice relates to the questions of ethnicity, relationships, and personal identity.

  9. In “Casual Water,” Patrick Fenny asks himself: “What was it that made people so weak?” What are the individual characters’ weaknesses? All the stories in the collection seem to hinge on characters’ fears, particularly of being alone, isolated, or abandoned. How is this theme developed?

  10. Miss Yung, Brian’s teacher, also appears in “The Lone Night Cantina” as Annie Yung’s sister. What other characters and places recur in the book? What impression do you get of the town of Rosarita Bay, and how does it fit in with the themes of the collection? Why do the characters feel drawn or trapped by the town?

  11. In “The Possible Husband,” Duncan Roh seems to flit from one pastime to another, much as he does with women. What is he ultimately seeking? Escapism or transcendence?

  12. In “Domo Arigato,” Eugene Kim is not only an outsider in Japanese society but also in the close circle of his American girlfriend’s white family. As a Korean American, how does Eugene perceive himself in relation to the native Japanese? What does his story tell us about the differences among Asian cultures themselves?

  13. Eugene eventually marries Janet, whom we learn is half-black, half-Korean. How does Eugene’s ultimate choice in his spouse reflect his experience with race, intimate relationships, and family? Does his choice signify a rejection of white American culture, or a reinforcement of ethnic identity? Is his conclusion about racial equality a form of resignation or acquired wisdom?

  14. In the title story, “Yellow,” When Danny Kim says to his wife, Rachel, “No stereotype is innocent,” she replies, “Racism’s not the problem. It’s you.” Do you agree with Danny or Rachel? Or both? Why does he perceive others as the problem, not himself?

  15. How does Danny attempt to overcome his feelings of insecurity? Does his response change as he grows older and more successful? How does his paranoia about race influence his desire to achieve?

  16. Each story in this collection includes details about the characters’ race and background, but the plots and people themselves are often defined not by their color but by their personal passions and by human dilemmas that are universally shared. How do these stories deal with racial stereotypes? What do they communicate about the diversity of Asian backgrounds and relationships with non-Asians? Explore how your perception of the stories might have changed if the characters’ race had not been described.

  17. While race does not seem to be the central focus of each story, the collection’s title is, nonetheless, Yellow. What is the impact of this provocative title? What about the titles of other stories? What messages or dual meanings do they carry?