Bob Santos at the opening of a homeless shelter in the Old Federal
Not Hot Dogs!
Memoirs of a savvy Asian American Activist
By Bob Santos
International Examiner Press
$18, $15 students (Available at the Wing Luke Museum, Uwajimaya, and the
offices of the International Examiner)
Review by Anitra Freeman
"Uncle Bob" Santos has been one of the driving forces in keeping
Seattle as multicultural as it is. In both feisty public rabble-rousing
and behind-the-scenes statesmanship, he has been a key force in building
a thriving Asian-American community and an important figure in making
Seattle one of the few cities where homeless and low-income people are
a real political presence.
He also grew up during "interesting times." His father was a
local sports hero who became blind later in his life, giving the young
Bob Santos, who was his fathers guide on his daily rounds, entree
into an adult world of bars and sports. He was 8 years old during the
WWII internment of Americans of Japanese descent, when he and other children
in his neighborhood had to wear badges that said "I AM FILIPINO"
or "I AM CHINESE" to avoid beatings by other children. He was
a part of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s.
After 68 years of living and shaping local history, the by-no-means-retired
Bob Santos has written his memoirs-to-date in 176 detail-packed pages,
Humbows, Not Hots Dogs: Memoirs of a savvy Asian American Activist.
(Im not counting title sheets and introduction.) He has done several
readings from his book to crowds across Seattle. But I couldnt find
any other book reviews to cheat from. The Seattle Times published
an interview with Bob after his book came out ("Bob Santos, feisty
defender of the Chinatown International District," June 23, 2002)
why hasnt anyone done a book review?
Part of the reason may be that Santos does not write his memoirs as a
novelist, or a professional storyteller. He writes in very simple, straightforward
language, as he speaks. His life might make a good action movie, but his
book doesnt read like one, even when he visits El Salvador and gets
close enough to the war to see gun smoke.
Im not much into action movies or suspense novels, however. I am
into stories of "how it happened." For instance, I loved reading
about the building of the International District community garden: from
the first negotiations for the land, through the cleanup, to the donation
of the 4-ton stone Friendship Lantern from Kobe, Japan, and its installation
in Kobe Terrace Park.
"The Alaskan Cannery Workers Association sent several crews to the
garden work parties. I will always remember the sight of Gene Viernes,
a farm boy from Wapato, running up and down the hillside with loads of
heavy gravel, hardly taking a break, until the entire load was spread.
I will always remember the sight of Silme Domingo backing down the narrow
road to the staging area in his Monte Carlo, stepping out on a rock, wearing
his black Italian shoes, and directing traffic to the dump site while
never working up a sweat."
That glimpse from 1976 is especially poignant. Gene Viernes and Silme
Domingo were assassinated in June 1981, in a backlash against their work
in organizing cannery workers.
I also have enough of my grandfathers farming heritage left to enjoy,
God preserve me from the judgment of my vegetarian friends, the humor
of Dan Rounds first attempt to kill a pig for the annual pig roast:
"After about nine times of being stabbed, the pig, with its eyes
bugging out, squealed. The farmer rushed over and asked us if we wanted
him to shoot the critter."
What Id like even better would be an audiotape of the book in Bobs
warm, chuckling voice.
previously published in Real Change, circulate at will with