As a young teenager in suburban Connecticut, Mark Salzman (Iron and Silk, the Soloist) becomes obsessed with Kung Fu. He dreams of wandering the world as an enlightened martial arts master, even setting up a makeshift Buddhist altar in his family's basement and buying a mail-order "bald head wig" to make him look more like a zen monk. Mark begins to study Kung Fu with Sensei O'Keefe, a frequently drunk young white man with anger management issues. Although he is the smallest person in the class and is terrified of physical violence, Mark perseveres, earns his first belts, and makes some close friends, but eventually realizes that Sensei O'Keefe has no grasp of the philosophy that draw Mark to Kung Fu in the first place. He quits the class and moves through a series of other obsessions, including jazz cello and marijuana. Throughout these years, Mark is guided by his optimistic music teacher mother and his extremely pessimistic amateur astronomer father. At the end of the memoir, Mark has begun college at Yale, where he returns to his first great love and decides to major in Chinese literature.
This report prepared by Jacqueline West