HomeBad Ass AsiansC.Y. Lee of Flower Drum Song Fame dead at 102

C.Y. Lee of Flower Drum Song Fame dead at 102

Flower Drum Song, C.Y. Lee

The best selling author of the Flower Drum Song which spawned two Broadway productions and a movie has died at the age of 102.

The Washington Post reports C.Y. Lee died on November 8, but his family did not announce it until now.

His daughter, Angela Lee, said her father died of kidney failure at his Los Angeles home.

The book centered around a first generation Chinese American immigration family and the generation gap that developed within the family.

Flower Drum Song
Linda Low (Nancy Kwan) and other cast members in Flower Drum Song. Sammy Fong (Jack Soo) is at the far left.

The movie starred Nancy Kwan in 1961 and became a classic. The Library of Congress placed the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2008. Rodgers & Hamerstein adapted the 1957 book as a Broadway play the following year.

Tony award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang revived the play on Broadway in 2001. He is survived by his daughter Angela and son, Jay Lee.

Some Asian American activist have condemned the book and original movie of perpetuating the image of the exotic culture for the pleasure of White audiences. In recent years, the book and play have gained in stature in the Asian American community. In 2016, AsAmNews published a story headlined “Flower Drum Song” Deserves a Second Look.

The Post reports the book nearly went unpublished. Every major publisher turned down the book for an entire year until an elderly man who screened the book simply wrote down on the book, “read this.”

Chin Yang Lee was born Dec. 23, 1915, in Hunan province of China.

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