restricted access Trauma and Identity Politics in Ai’s Dread

This essay considers the political implications of Ai’s poetry collection Dread (2003) in both the classroom and in light of literary history, specifically in regard to the trope of the tragic mulatto/a. The theoretical framework is a synthesis of ethnic studies and feminist criticism, a framework that enables us to locate Ai’s tactics within academic debates about race, identity, and representation. Perhaps the meager amount of scholarship on Ai’s work can be attributed to the lack of interpretations that open up her poetry and make it more critically accessible. This article contributes new scholarship and interpretations of Ai’s poetry in connection with trauma and identity politics in order to fuel critical conversations about Ai. Additionally, it offers teaching strategies in connection with Ai’s poems and contextualizes her work within literary ethnic studies, women’s studies, and trauma studies.