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  Texas : Features : Books Reviews

THE ADVENTURES OF EDDIE FUNG:
Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War

Book Review by Mel Brown
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As an avocational historian and wannabe Asian American scholar, I have had the privilege of meeting or connecting with some very special people along the way. Two of the most special are Dr. Judy Yung and her husband Eddie Fung, who have created a fine new book that chronicles the life and times of Eddie himself. Titled not so simply, The Adventures of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War is an amazing mix of memoir and history lesson that we the readers can follow as he explains his life's path.
Adventures of Eddie Fung, Book cover
Eddie began his journey as a scrawny kid on the crowded, colorful and sometimes mean streets of San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1930s. Had you run into Eddie back then, he would have looked like any average Chinese American kid on the Chinatown block, but that's the last thing that he actually was. For reasons beyond the understanding of anyone, Eddie was born with the soul of a maverick and an unusually restless one at that. "A Maverick is a person with independence of thought or action, a non-conformist" is one dictionary's definition, and it fits Eddie Fung to the letter. His second year in high school, where he was a†decent student but an unruly citizen, Eddie was " ... thrown out for being a wise guy my sophomore year."

So having been fascinated by horses since childhood, he lit out for Texas to become a cowboy at age sixteen and made it. Working on various ranches in the high plains region north and west of Midland, Eddie learned many of life's lessons from that rare breed of men who lived out their lives around livestock. This meant he also learned to know, admire and love the people who owned and operated the large cattle ranches of that part of Texas then.

A couple of years of growing up in that environment would mean a lot to Eddie when WW II came along and he joined the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division. Those experiences combined with a native common sense born into him plus what he had learned from his parents in their struggle to raise a family in the Depression, this young man would survive situations as a prisoner of war that killed many of his comrades. He almost died a couple times himself while earning the dubious distinction of being the only Chinese American prisoner of war that the Japanese held from early 1942 until Allied victory in August 1945.
Eddie Fung at Camp Bowie
Here is young Eddie Fung striking a soldierly pose with a powerful B.A.R. or Browning Automatic Rifle at Camp Bowie, Tx. Located near Brownwood, the seat of Brown County, the sprawling army training post became one of the largest installations in Texas by the end of the war. The 36th Infantry Division got to Camp Bowie in mid December of 1940 for intensive field training. They were in the Pacific in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
Courtesy of Eddie Fung
His stories of life in the POW camps alone are worth the price of this book but there's a lot more, including post war education, married life and professional adventures in the atomic age. Along the way, Eddie also experienced the unpleasant side effects of being in war and how one can learn to deal with them. We also follow him through reconnection with his veteran buddies many years later and his latest adventure as the Greatest Generation housemate of a baby boomer college professor.
Eddie and Judy Fung
Here are Eddie and Judy on their wedding day April 1, 2003. He was retired and a widower when they met and Judy was a professor of American Studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. Cupidís arrow apparently struck just the right spot on each of them in spite of age experiential differences that some might consider insurmountable.
Courtesy of Judy Yung
Dr. Judy Yung is the other half of the amazing equation that has produced a book long on experience and deep in wisdom. She is Professor Emeritus at UC Santa Cruz and one of the nation's leading Asian American scholars and the author of a number of benchmark books in that field of study. The†story of how they got together is another reason that this book must be held in hand and cherished.
Best of all is news that they are coming to Texas in September for a book tour so catch them if you can at one of their stops in Austin, San Antonio and Houston. But if you want a preview, take a look at their YouTube presentation at a Bay Are bookstore.

http://www.youtube.com/user/tombickfong

If you want to contact them please feel free to drop me a line and I'll pass it along. Mel B. in Austin
melbjr@earthlink.net

© Mel Brown
June 26, 2008 Column
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