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Reviewed by:
  • Asian American Literary Studies, and: Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing, and: Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits
  • Cathy J. Schlund-Vials (bio)
Asian American Literary Studies. Edited by Guiyou Huang. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005.
Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing. Edited by Rocío G. Davis and Sue-Im Lee. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits. Edited by Shirley Geok-lin Lim, John Blair Gamber, Stephen Hong Sohn, and Gina Valentino. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005.

The impact of the global, the role of identity politics, the issue of aesthetics, and the frame of transnationalism, along with the methodological questions each of these raise for Asian American literary scholars, is integral to three recent anthologies: Asian American Literary Studies (2005), Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Writing, and Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits (2005). Individually and collectively, these collections constitute a significant and multifaceted dialogue about the history of Asian American literary studies and provide valuable future directions for the field. Additionally, the thematic foci of each anthology further stresses the unique nature of Asian American literary studies as a field marked by interdisciplinarity, heterogeneity, and multiplicity with regard to form and content.

Because of the specific thematic focus of each work, it initially seems difficult to conduct a comparative reading. Although the methodological frameworks are [End Page 85] markedly different in each anthology, each collection does provide the reader with a brief history of the field of Asian American literary studies, and such a history is best embodied by the criticism and reception of Maxine Hong Kingston's body of work: The Woman Warrior, China Men, and Tripmaster Monkey. These novels are discussed in each of the compilations, which is understandable given the authorial position Kingston holds within the American literary canon. Since its publication thirty years ago, The Woman Warrior has been and continues to be the focus of disciplinary debates about authenticity, form, genre, and identity, a fact that does not escape mention by the editors of each anthology. If we consider the ubiquity of Kingston's work as indicative of not only her significant position within ethnic American literary studies but specifically within Asian American literary studies, the thirtieth anniversary of The Woman Warrior's publication provides an appropriate moment in which to examine where the field of Asian American studies has been and where it may be going.

The editors and some of the scholars found in Asian American Literary Studies, Literary Gestures, and Transnational Asian American Literature make specific and at times prominent mention of debates over Kingston's ethnographic representation and creative imagination, including Frank Chin's now famous assertion that Kingston's literary production reflects an inauthentic voice and racist agenda.1 Although Kingston's work provides an entrée into a comparative analysis of each anthology, the direction each collection takes is markedly different with regard to Kingston's body of work. Moreover, such scholarly explorations of her texts are but one part of a much broader examination of the context of Asian American literature, which includes multiple genres (poetry, drama, fiction, memoir) and theoretical considerations (identity politics, aesthetics, and transnationalism).

For example, according to editor Guiyou Huang, his volume provides "a considerable array of global and interdisciplinary perspectives on the intersections of literary, political, cultural, historical, and social issues cutting across the broad discipline of Asian American studies" (11). The ten essays in the collection are divided into three sections—the role of war and the notion of self in Asian American literary productions and autobiography respectively; the problematics of binary notions of gender and issues of pan-ethnicity; and the examination of Asian and Asian American subjectivity through the lenses performance, language, and film. With regard to Kingston's work, Wenxin Li's "Gender Negotiations and the Asian American Literary Imagination" uses the Chin/Kingston debate to explore and deconstruct the tendency toward privileging a particular gender position at the expense of another formulation within Asian American studies (112). Li complicates the notion of a purely ethnic or gender-based analysis of [End Page 86] Kingston's work and, by extension...


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