“What he had mastered came out crudely and strangely twisted,” Mr. Louie wrote. “His phrases, built from a vocabulary of deference and accommodation, irritated Mrs. Chow for the way they resembled the obsequious blabber of her servants back home.”
“Displacement” was included in the anthology “The Best American Short Stories 1989.”
Mr. Louie also wrote of characters who resist their ethnic backgrounds. Sterling Lung, the protagonist of “The Barbarians Are Coming,” is a Chinese-American chef who was trained in French cuisine but who is constantly asked to make Chinese food. He rebels against his Chinese parents by marrying a Jewish woman instead of a woman in China named Yuk, chosen from afar by his parents.
“What did he expect?” Sterling thinks about his father. “I was born here, among the wolves. If he wanted a clone of himself, if he wanted Yuk for a child, he should’ve stayed in China.”
But Sterling’s marriage, born of passionate rebellion, becomes dutiful and cold, much like that of his parents.
Mr. Louie was born on Dec. 20, 1954, in Rockville Centre, N.Y., on Long Island, to Henry and Yu Lan (Mok) Louie. His father came to the United States from China in the 1940s, and his mother joined him in the 1950s. The family ran a laundry in East Meadow, N.Y., for most of Mr. Louie’s childhood.
He was one of the few Asian-Americans at East Meadow High School.
“A lot of Asian people, including myself, try to figure out who we are by trying on different guises,” Mr. Louie told The New York Times in a 1991 profile. “All my childhood friends were white, so I thought of myself as white almost. I’d tell myself, ‘Don’t think of your parents.’ ”
He graduated from high school in 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College in 1977 and a master’s in creative writing from the University of Iowa in 1981. He taught writing at the University of Iowa, Vassar and colleges in the University of California system before settling at U.C.L.A., where he also taught Asian-American studies, in 1992.