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Racial Asymmetries

Asian American Fictional Worlds

Stephen Hong Sohn

Publication Year: 2014

Challenging the tidy links among authorial position, narrative perspective, and fictional content, Stephen Hong Sohn argues that Asian American authors have never been limited to writing about Asian American characters or contexts. Racial Asymmetries specifically examines the importance of first person narration in Asian American fiction published in the postrace era, focusing on those cultural productions in which the author’s ethnoracial makeup does not directly overlap with that of the storytelling perspective.
Through rigorous analysis of novels and short fiction, such as Sesshu Foster’s Atomik Aztex, Sabina Murray’s A Carnivore’s Inquiry and Sigrid Nunez’s The Last of Her Kind, Sohn reveals how the construction of narrative perspective allows the Asian American writer a flexible aesthetic canvas upon which to engage issues of oppression and inequity, power and subjectivity, and the complicated construction of racial identity. Speaking to concerns running through postcolonial studies and American literature at large, Racial Asymmetries employs an interdisciplinary approach to reveal the unbounded nature of fictional worlds.
Stephen Hong Sohn is Assistant Professor of English at Stanford University. He is the co-editor of Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits.

Published by: NYU Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

Let me begin with my deepest apologies for any oversights or omissions. My journey into the labyrinthine world of Asian American literature was initiated by Shirley Geok-lin Lim; this book could not have been possible without her tireless mentorship and her galvanizing presence...

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Introduction: The Many Storytellers of Asian American Fiction

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pp. 1-24

Asian American literature is traditionally understood as a body of texts written in English that depicts a specific social history in which individuals of various ethnicities have faced discrimination due to perceptions and laws that designated them as aliens.1 Common narratives involve...

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1. White Flight, White Narration: Suburban Deviancies in Chang-rae Lee’s Aloft

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pp. 25-62

Racial Asymmetries begins with one obvious starting point for Asian American studies: the experience of racial exclusion under the guise of white hegemony. The large-scale racial rubric constituting the Asian American as an outsider has been in place at least since 1917, when the...

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2. When the Minor Becomes Major: Asian American Literary California, Chicano Narration, and Sesshu Foster’s Atomik Aztex

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pp. 63-100

This chapter shifts from the white-Asian paradigm discussed in the first chapter to an investigation of how and why Asian American writers include other racial minority groups in their fictional worlds. Chapter 1 called attention to a racial paradigm that substantively undergirds Asian...

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3. The Incomplete Biography in the Post–Civil Rights Era: Narrating Imagined Lives in Sigrid Nunez’s Fictions

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pp. 101-135

In this chapter, I take a slightly different direction from those that appeared earlier by focusing on one writer, Sigrid Nunez, and her deployment of biographical representation. Nunez undermines any expectations that might arise, for example, due to marketplace pressures or from...

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4. Comparative Colonial Narration: Conquest and Consumption in Sabina Murray’s Fictions

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pp. 136-170

Racial Asymmetries pushes critics to reconsider the relationships among the Asian American writer, the narrator and narrative perspective, and the fictional world. On the one hand, each chapter explores a different facet of narrational refraction that troubles the link between...

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5. Impossible Narration: Racial Analogies and Asian American Speculative Fictions

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pp. 171-208

This chapter presents perhaps the most difficult epistemological questions for cultural criticism because it engages the political import and aesthetic qualities of Asian American speculative fictions. Such chimerical representations result in what the literary critic Darko Suvin...

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Coda: Fiction Unbound

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pp. 209-212

Asian American fiction boasts a long and rich lineage, at least over a century long; its body of texts contains a multitude of unforgettable characters and compelling themes. Within this impressive archive, writers often produce narratives imbued with autobiographical and auto-ethnographic...


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pp. 213-234

Works Cited

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pp. 235-274


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pp. 275-288

About the Author

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p. 289

E-ISBN-13: 9781479800551
Print-ISBN-13: 9781479800070
Print-ISBN-10: 1479800074

Page Count: 297
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 869904577
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Racial Asymmetries

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Asian American authors -- History and criticism.
  • First person narrative -- History and criticism.
  • Point of view (Literature).
  • Race in literature.
  • Subjectivity in literature.
  • Equality in literature.
  • Lee, Chang-rae. Aloft.
  • Foster, Sesshu. Atomik Aztex.
  • Murray, Sabina. Carnivore's inquiry.
  • Nunez, Sigrid. Last of her kind.
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