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East is West and West is East

Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America

Karen Kuo

Publication Year: 2012

Between 1919-1938,   contact between Asia and America forced a reassessment of the normative boundaries of race, sex, gender, class, home, and nation. Karen Kuo’s provocative East Is West and West Is East looks closely at these global shifts to modernity.

In her analysis of five forgotten texts—the 1930 film East Is West, Frank Capra’s 1937 version of Lost Horizon and its 1973 remake, Younghill Kang's novel East Goes West, and Baroness Ishimoto’s memoir/manifesto, Facing Both Ways—Kuo elucidates how “Asia” played a role in shaping American gender and racial identities and how Asian authors understood modern America and its social, political, and cultural influence on Asia.

Kuo asserts that while notions of white and Asian racial difference remain salient, sexual and gendered constructions of Asians and whites were at times about similarity and intersections as much as they were about establishing differences. 

Published by: Temple University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xiii

This book was written with the support and help of many people. Its glimmerings began as a PhD dissertation under the guidance of Priscilla Wald, Caroline Chung Simpson, Shawn Wong, and Susan Jeffords at the University of Washington. Over the years, ...

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pp. 1-22

In the 1930 film East Is West, international businessman Billy Benson brings a Chinese sing-song girl, Ming Toy, into his parental home. While abroad in China, Benson had urged his Chinese American friend Lo Sang Kee to buy Ming Toy from a notorious Chinese American gangster in order to protect her. ...

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1. How Yellow and White Women Are Sold: Controlling Chinese and White Female Sexuality and the Making of US Domesticity in East Is West

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pp. 23-62

The beginning of the 1930 film East Is West unabashedly introduces us to a Chinese “woman market,” where Lo Sang Kee (E. Alyn Warren), a Chinese American businessman, brings his good friend Billy Benson (Lew Ayres), an international man of trade and son of the US ambassador to China, ...

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2. Masculine Racial Formations in Younghill Kang’s East Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee

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pp. 63-96

When Younghill Kang published his second novel, East Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee, in 1937, literary reviewers equated Kang with his fictional character and narrator, Chungpa Han, seeing both as successfully integrated Asians who became Americans. A New York Times reviewer wrote that Kang’s story ...

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3. Utopias Lost and Found: Lost Horizon and the Revitalization of American Masculinity

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pp. 97-138

In one of the most dramatic moments in Frank Capra’s 1937 film Lost Horizon, two survivors of a plane crash, their aircraft buried in snow and their pilot dead, pore over a map, trying to situate themselves. As I point out later in my study, this moment begins the characters’ vacillating assessments of the land to which they have come. ...

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4. Envisioning Feminism across the Pacific: Japanese and American Feminism and the Limits of Race in Facing Two Ways

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pp. 139-184

Transpacific co-encounters between Japanese and US feminists, specifically through the collaboration and alliance between two birth control activists, Baroness Shidzué Ishimoto and Margaret Sanger, are examined in this chapter. As I suggested in the introduction and in chapter 1, there are relatively few works that discuss the real and imagined relationships ...

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pp. 185-194

In this book I have reflected on the ways key issues regarding the constitution of the American social, sexual, and gendered subject in the early twentieth century were articulated by way of cultural and social discourses that presented fascinating, and often fantastic, visions of contact between Asia and America. ...


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pp. 195-218


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pp. 219-226


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pp. 227-241

E-ISBN-13: 9781439905883
Print-ISBN-13: 9781439905876

Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 2
Publication Year: 2012