|Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Alex Tizon,|
By Louis Chan
A JOURNALIST who dedicated his career to writing about the marginalized and whose 2014 book "Big Little Man: In Search of My Asian Self," told of his struggles as an Asian/American man, is dead at the age of 57.
Alex Tizon died unexpectedly of natural causes Thursday (March 23), according to his family and the University of Oregon where he taught journalism as an assistant professor since 2011.
“My family arrived in the United States in the mid-1960s, when race was a national preoccupation,” said Tizon in an interview with AsAmNews in 2014. “The dialogue was almost always framed in terms of White and Black — White Americans and Black Americans. There were less than a million Asians in the United States at the time, and we’re still a relatively small minority today — 5 percent, I believe. I don’t think Asians have been in the country long enough and in large enough numbers for the majority of White and Black Americans to be able to associate an Asian face with being “all-American.” I don’t like it, but that’s been the fact for as long as I’ve lived here.”
Tizon was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Seattle with his family when he was just 5, according to the Seattle Times
He won journalism’s most prestigious prize, the Pulitzer, in 1997 for his investigative story with two other reporters on corruption in a federally subsidized housing program for Native Americans.
He also worked as a bureau chief in Seattle for the Los Angeles Times and has published numerous stories in The Atlantic Magazine. In fact, what could be the last story ever written by Tizon is expected to be published in The Atlantic soon.
“His death is a tragic loss not only to his family but to the entire SOJC (School of Journalism and Communication) community,” journalism director Scott Maier wrote to students at the University of Oregon.
His book, "Big Little Man" is described as a memoir based on his life experiences.
“We all at some point encountered—and continue to encounter—the deep-rooted Western notion, perpetuated by entertainment media, that Asians are at the bottom of the food chain, the weakest, the smallest, the least masculine of men,” said Tizon to AsAmNews.
It’s that sense of empathy for communities often ignored by both society and journalists that Tizon will be remembered.
“He was very curious about other people — and learning about other people helped him learn about himself,” said his wife, Melissa Tizon to the Seattle Times. “That’s what journalism did for him. His whole life quest was about trying to understand who he was, as an immigrant growing up in a largely white community.”
A memorial is scheduled for Saturday, April 1, at the Newport Convenant Church in Bellevue, Washington at 1 p.m. Flowers can be sent there or his family says donations can be made in his memory to the Asian American Journalists Association.