[Don Lee] has situated that ground in the fictive Rosarita Bay, a slightly seedy, slightly bohemian Northern California coastal town loosely modeled on Half Moon Bay. "I was interested in creating a California every-town, and I wanted it to be one of those small California places where Asians have been a part of the community for generations, pursuing normal American lives in normal American ways," Lee explained in a conversation following a recent reading at Barnes & Noble in Westwood.
In "Yellow," the novella that gives the collection its title, Lee comes to grips with these issues in what he admits is the most frankly autobiographical of his stories. The protagonist, Danny Kim, who, like Lee, is handsome and passionately athletic, traverses an arc from his native Rosarita Bay through UCLA, on to professional success in Boston and back to a kind of peace and mature accommodation with his family and birthplace.
In fact, Lee's preoccupation with the exigencies of storytelling is one of "Yellow's" great pleasures. An admirer of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the heroic era of short American fiction, Lee is unafraid of flirting with the perils of melodrama and even sentimentality--if it is the service of narrative. His prose is spare and free of literary allusions, and he is unafraid to take narrative chances, including what some might consider Hollywood action set pieces. Danny Kim, for example, dives into a river to rescue a colleague suicidal over his failure to win a promotion.