Amy W.S. Lee
Monfoon Leong was born on January 14, 1916 in San Diego's Chinatown, the eldest of four brothers and two sisters. When he was fourteen, his father's death made him, the number one son, the head of the family, and he took the job of a houseboy to support the family. Because of his status, he came to associate easily with people of his mother's generation, and that gave him a chance to observe carefully the traditional customs and beliefs of the Chinese.
While attending La Jolla High School, he was particularly active in drama and writing. His poem “Ode to a Worm” appeared in the school paper. But Leong's interest was not limited to schoolwork; he was also a leader in the church and actively participated in sports. Later he became the first Chinese to be employed by Convair Aircraft and Naval Air Station at North Island as a patternmaker and draftsman. During World War II, he worked very hard to be accepted into the U.S. Army Air Force for training as a ferry pilot. It was said that Leong did lots of stretching exercises to fulfill the height requirement and consumed carrot juice to improve his night vision. But shortly before the end of the war the program was cancelled.
By the time the pressure to support his family eased a little, he moved to northern California to attend San Jose State College. There his interest and talent in writing was recognized by his teachers, who encouraged him to specialize in this field. He went to study at Stanford University and majored in English (writing). In June 1951, he married Diana Ming Chan, just a few days before he was awarded his B.A. degree.
Leong continued his pursuit of knowledge. In 1953 he completed his Master's degree in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the fol-