The year 1997 was apparently a productive year, yielding five new works on Asian American women that reflect significant developments in the discourse on race, gender, class, and sexuality. Although none of these titles offer a comparative synthesis of Asian American women’s history and culture comparable to Ronald Takaki’s Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1989) or Sucheng Chan’s Asian Americans: An Interpretive History(Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991), they are nevertheless [End Page 311]a welcomed addition to the growing scholarship, theoretical perspectives, and cultural expressions on the diverse experiences of Asian American women.
In many ways, these three anthologies, sociological treatise, and pedagogical handbook follow the postmodern trend in Asian American gender studies by taking an interdisciplinary and multicultural approach to studying Asian American women as a category of difference. All of them provide some analysis of race, class, and gender power dynamics while highlighting Asian American women’s diversity, agency, and strategies for social change. It is particularly refreshing to read about the experiences of marginalized groups in Asian American studies—Filipinos, Koreans, Hawaiians, South Asians, Southeast Asians, lesbians, and people of mixed heritage—as well as current issues such as the global economy, drug addiction, AIDS, comfort women, adoption, and new political strategies. For the general readership, these works offer a rich potpourri of women’s experiences and powerful writings that challenge the stereotype of the passive, quiet Asian American woman. For those of us in Asian American studies, they are a welcomed source of materials for our own scholarship and courses.
A sequel of Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and about Asian American Women(Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), Making More Wavesbrings together established and new voices that address history and memory, sexuality and repression, multiple identities, and cultural and generational conflicts in dynamic ways while providing alternative practices in the present and future. Compared to the first anthology, there is less emphasis on immigration, history and labor issues, and more on cultural and artistic interpretations. In content and appearance, Making More Wavessmacks of postmodern and post-colonial discourse. The anthology of four dozen selections of prose and poetry, fiction and non-fiction, essays and memoirs is, as Elaine Kim says in the preface, “an attempt to weave history and memory with desire and possibility in such a way that multiple identities emerge as irregularities and discontinuities, beautiful and unpredictable, in the pattern.” (p. xiii)
A number of personalized stories stand out as painful accounts eloquently retold. Among my favorites are Grace Elaine Suh’s “Gifts of the Magi,” a powerful story about an interracial family that suffers the abuse of a tyrannical father; Marie G. Lee’s “Summer of My Korean Soldier,” which follows a Korean adoptee’s desperate search for her birth mother in Korea; Dai Sil Kim-Gibson’s compelling interview with an awesome Korean comfort woman; and Nora Okja Keller’s seamless story about a “hapa bastard” child’s poignant search for a safe place and positive identity in Hawai’i. [End Page 312]
The section titled “Reflection” offers three important theoretical essays that are as succinct in analyzing problems of concern to Asian American women as they are concrete in suggesting solutions. In “Defining Genealogies: Feminist Reflections on Being South Asian in North America,” Chandra Talpade Mohanty takes us on a personal journey that spans India and the United States and encapsulates colonialism, racism, and patriarchy. “Home, community, and identity all fall somewhere between the histories and circumstances...