The 1961 novel Eat a Bowl of Tea follows the story of newlyweds Ben Loy and Mei Oi. Written by Louis Chu, it is considered the first Chinese American novel written about Chinese America. It tells of the “bachelor society” that had established itself in Chinatown until the postwar period, and how the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion act and the implementation of the War Brides Act of 1945 changed things. Chinatown transformed from a bachelor society into a family society, a transformation that required the traditional Chinese values of loyalty and adaptability.
In the novel, Ben Loy and Mei Oi struggle as a married couple in this bachelor setting. Ben Loy becomes impotent and Mei Oi begins to act completely out of character as a result of their struggles and many of the traditional Chinese values placed upon them. However, it is ultimately through traditional Chinese values that these two are able to find the strength to better themselves and show the resilience Chinese American community in the face of hardship.
It was turned into a romantic comedy in 1989.