Stephan Lee
July 18, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Collective

Current Status
In Season
Don Lee

We gave it an A-

The passionate and infuriating young artists at the center of Lee’s third novel, The Collective, spend an inordinate amount of time trying to define themselves. When they meet at Macalester College, writers Joshua Yoon and Eric Cho and painter Jessica Tsai have a better idea of what they’re not: computer nerds, geishas, or, God forbid, Long Duk Dong. After graduation, the three friends form the Asian American Artists Collective (3AC), largely the work of Joshua, the brilliant and tortured radical of the group. Over the years, the 3AC battles infighting, censorship, and the brand of casual, can’t-you-take-a-joke racism so often directed at Asian-Americans. Yes, Lee comes with an agenda — an important one — about ethnicity and art, but he also delivers a heartbreaking, sexy, and frequently funny story about fractured friendships. A-

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