Essays On Being Asian American

Kim’s 1982 , edited by King-Kok Cheung and published in 1997, both of which tried to map the contours of Asian American literature in their respective decades.Kim’s study shared the tendency of much early Asian American scholarship to center on the experiences and cultural productions of East Asians, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, while Cheung’s collection attempted to be more inclusive with chapters devoted to South Asian American or Vietnamese American writing.In Chapter Nine, “Model Minority Narratives and the Asian American Family,” Erin Ninh engages in the re-reading of (in)famous narratives of intergenerational conflict–including, among others, Maxine Hong Kingston’s –that have been scathingly criticized by Asian American scholars for “selling out” to the mainstream.

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Quite a few of the concepts analyzed in the book would naturally be applicable to other minorities as well–for example, “deportation,” “law” or “race.” The inclusion of other concepts may, on the other hand, come as a surprise to the reader–for example, “environment” and “health”–as typically little attention is given to them in the context of Asian American studies.

At other times, the reader’s expectations concerning the term in question may be challenged.

Josephine Lee argues in “Asian American Drama” that having “always been tied up with larger questions of visibility and representation” (90) Asian American drama frequently takes as its aim the unpacking and debunking of stereotypical, Orientalizing representations of Asianness.

In her chapter on “Asian American Poetry,” Josephine Park analyzes the work of the Chinese detainees on Angel Island, the Japanese Americans interned during World War II as well as three contemporary poets–Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Meena Alexander and Tan Lin–pointing to the shared feature of these diverse poetic productions, namely their manifestations of discontent.

For example, Linda Trinh Võ in her entry on “Community” points out the problematic character of the pan-ethnic Asian American label, which may lead to the erasure of the differences between various Asian nationalities, even if its coinage was fueled by a desire to present Asian Americans as a coherent group with the view to gaining for them some political power.

Essays On Being Asian American

By a similar token, Nitasha Tamar Sharma in her entry on “Brown” addresses the hierarchical organization of Asian American studies; the priority it initially gave to East Asians paved the way for the embracing of the label “Brown” by many Asian Americans who felt excluded from the–in itself problematic–label “Yellow,” associated with East Asians.For instance, Daryl Joji Maeda’s entry on “Movement” focuses not on mobility, which is what one may expect given the history of Asian migration to the US, but on Asian American political activism.What is noteworthy, there are several concepts whose recurrence in many of the entries testifies to their centrality in articulating Asian American consciousness; these are, to name just a few, transnationalism, intersectionality, and Orientalism.The first one, titled “Formations of Asian America: Immigration, Empire, Law,” comprises three essays that delve into the foundation of Asian American literature and the role played thereof by American imperialist and domestic policies.In Chapter One, “Asian American Literature within and beyond the Immigrant Narrative,” Min Hyoung Song points to the struggles of American writers of Asian descent with the expectations of what they ought to write about as Asian Americans and with the label of an Asian American author itself.Song discusses one of the most prevalent literary genres associated with Asian America, that of immigrant narrative, which is currently being challenged and refused by many second-generation Asian American writers.Chapter Two, “America’s Empire and the Asia-Pacific: Constructing Hawai’i and the Philippines” by Denise Cruz and Erin Suzuki, analyzes the works of such influential early writers as Felicidad Ocampo, José Garcia Villa and Carlos Bulosan as well as more contemporary authors who in their works address the history of the US presence in their respective areas.Part Two, “Asian American Writing and the Legacy of War,” begins with Greg Robinson’s essay “Writing the Internment,” which proceeds chronologically from war-time and postwar to present-day internment literature, authored by both Japanese and white writers, produced with adults or children in mind, to argue that while the production and reception of early internment stories was governed by sociological conditions, recent narratives make more creative uses of the internment stories.In Chapter Five, “The Literature of the Korean War and Vietnam War,” Daniel Y.Still, some of the entries included in the collection are in themselves a reflection of this lingering tendency to prioritize East Asians.To give an example, Evelyn Hu-Dehart’s entry on “Diaspora” focuses almost exclusively on the experiences of the Chinese, despite some general remarks the author makes about diasporas at large.


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