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Asian North American Identities

Beyond the Hyphen

Eleanor Ty and Donald C. Goellnicht, eds.

The nine essays in Asian North American Identities explore how Asian North Americans are no longer caught between worlds of the old and the new, the east and the west, and the south and the north. Moving beyond national and diasporic models of ethnic identity to focus on the individual feelings and experiences of those who are not part of a dominant white majority, the essays collected here draw from a wide range of sources, including novels, art, photography, poetry, cinema, theatre, and popular culture. The book illustrates how Asian North Americans are developing new ways of seeing and thinking about themselves by eluding imposed identities and creating spaces that offer alternative sites from which to speak and imagine.

Contributors are Jeanne Yu-Mei Chiu, Patricia Chu, Rocio G. Davis, Donald C. Goellnicht, Karlyn Koh, Josephine Lee, Leilani Nishime, Caroline Rody, Jeffrey J. Santa Ana, Malini Johar Schueller, and Eleanor Ty.

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Asianfail

Narratives of Disenchantment and the Model Minority

Eleanor Ty's bold exploration of literature, plays, and film reveals how young Asian Americans and Asian Canadians have struggled with the ethos of self-sacrifice preached by their parents. This new generation's narratives focus on protagonists disenchanted with their daily lives. Many are depressed. Some are haunted by childhood memories of war, trauma, and refugee camps. Rejecting an obsession with professional status and money, they seek fulfillment by prioritizing relationships, personal growth, and cultural success. As Ty shows, these storytellers have done more than reject a narrowly defined road to happiness. They have rejected neoliberal capitalism itself. In so doing, they demand that the rest of us reconsider our outmoded ideas about the so-called model minority.

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Bamboo Among The Oaks

Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans

Edited by Mai Neng Moua

Of an estimated twelve million ethnic Hmong in the world, more than 160,000 live in the United States today, most of them refugees of the Vietnam War and the civil war in Laos. Their numbers make them one of the largest recent immigrant groups in our nation. Today, significant Hmong populations can be found in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, and Colorado, and St. Paul boasts the largest concentration of Hmong residents of any city in the world. In this groundbreaking anthology, first- and second-generation Hmong Americans--the first to write creatively in English--share their perspectives on being Hmong in America. In stories, poetry, essays, and drama, these writers address the common challenges of immigrants adapting to a new homeland: preserving ethnic identity and traditions, assimilating to and battling with the dominant culture, negotiating generational conflicts exacerbated by the clash of cultures, and developing new identities in multiracial America. Many pieces examine Hmong history and culture and the authors' experiences as Americans. Others comment on issues significant to the community: the role of women in a traditionally patriarchal culture, the effects of violence and abuse, the stories of Hmong military action in Laos during the Vietnam War. These writers don't pretend to provide a single story of the Hmong; instead, a multitude of voices emerge, some wrapped up in the past, others looking toward the future, where the notion of "Hmong American" continues to evolve. In her introduction, editor Mai Neng Moua describes her bewilderment when she realized that anthologies of Asian American literature rarely contained even one selection by a Hmong American. In 1994, she launched a Hmong literary journal, Paj Ntaub Voice, and in the first issue asked her readers "Where are the Hmong American voices?" Now this collection--containing selections from the journal as well as new submissions--offers a chorus of voices from a vibrant and creative community of Hmong American writers from across the United States.

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Becoming American

The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

ShiPu Wang

"A few short days has changed my status in this country, although I myself have not changed at all."

On December 8, 1941, artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi (1889-1953) awoke to find himself branded an "enemy alien" by the U.S. government in the aftermath of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The historical crisis forced Kuniyoshi, an émigré Japanese with a distinguished career in American art, to rethink his pictorial strategies and to confront questions of loyalty, assimilation, national and racial identity that he had carefully avoided in his prewar art. As an immigrant who had proclaimed himself to be as "American as the next fellow," the realization of his now fractured and precarious status catalyzed the development of an emphatic and conscious identity construct that would underlie Kuniyoshi’s art and public image for the remainder of his life.

Drawing on previously unexamined primary sources, Becoming American? is the first scholarly book in over two decades to offer an in-depth and critical analysis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s pivotal works, including his "anti-Japan" posters and radio broadcasts for U.S. propaganda, and his coded and increasingly enigmatic paintings, within their historical contexts. Through the prism of an identity crisis, the book examines Kuniyoshi’s imagery and writings as vital means for him to engage, albeit often reluctantly and ambivalently, in discussions about American democracy and ideals at a time when racial and national origins were grounds for mass incarceration and discrimination. It is also among the first scholarly studies to investigate the activities of Americans of Japanese descent outside the internment camps and the intense pressures with which they had to deal in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

As an art historical book, Becoming American? foregrounds broader historical debates of what constituted American art, a central preoccupation of Kuniyoshi’s artistic milieu. It illuminates the complicating factors of race, diasporas, and ideology in the construction of an American cultural identity. Timely and provocative, the book historicizes and elucidates the ways in which "minority" artists have been, and continue to be, both championed and marginalized for their cultural and ethnic "difference" within the twentieth-century American art canon.

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Becoming Mexipino

Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego

Rudy P. Guevarra Jr.

Becoming Mexipino is a social-historical interpretation of two ethnic groups, one Mexican, the other Filipino, whose paths led both groups to San Diego, California. Rudy Guevarra traces the earliest interactions of both groups with Spanish colonialism to illustrate how these historical ties and cultural bonds laid the foundation for what would become close interethnic relationships and communities in twentieth-century San Diego as well as in other locales throughout California and the Pacific West Coast.Through racially restrictive covenants and other forms of discrimination, both groups, regardless of their differences, were confined to segregated living spaces along with African Americans, other Asian groups, and a few European immigrant clusters. Within these urban multiracial spaces, Mexicans and Filipinos coalesced to build a world of their own through family and kin networks, shared cultural practices, social organizations, and music and other forms of entertainment. They occupied the same living spaces, attended the same Catholic churches, and worked together creating labor cultures that reinforced their ties, often fostering marriages. Mexipino children, living simultaneously in two cultures, have forged a new identity for themselves. Their lives are the lens through which these two communities are examined, revealing the ways in which Mexicans and Filipinos interacted over generations to produce this distinct and instructive multiethnic experience. Using archival sources, oral histories, newspapers, and personal collections and photographs, Guevarra defines the niche that this particular group carved out for itself.

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Becoming Refugee American

The Politics of Rescue in Little Saigon

Phuong Nguyen

Vietnamese refugees fleeing the fall of South Vietnam faced a paradox. The same guilt-ridden America that only reluctantly accepted them expected, and rewarded, expressions of gratitude for their rescue. Meanwhile, their status as refugees ”as opposed to willing immigrants ”profoundly influenced their cultural identity. Phuong Tran Nguyen examines the phenomenon of refugee nationalism among Vietnamese Americans in Southern California. Here, the residents of Little Saigon keep alive nostalgia for the old regime and, by extension, their claim to a lost statehood. Their refugee nationalism is less a refusal to assimilate than a mode of becoming, in essence, a distinct group of refugee Americans. Nguyen examines the factors that encouraged them to adopt this identity. His analysis also moves beyond the familiar rescue narrative to chart the intimate yet contentious relationship these Vietnamese Americans have with their adopted homeland. Nguyen sets their plight within the context of the Cold War, an era when Americans sought to atone for broken promises but also saw themselves as providing a sanctuary for people everywhere fleeing communism.

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Betrayal and Other Acts of Subversion

Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature

Leslie Bow

Asian American women have long dealt with charges of betrayal within and beyond their communities. Images of their "disloyalty" pervade American culture, from the daughter who is branded a traitor to family for adopting American ways, to the war bride who immigrates in defiance of her countrymen, to a figure such as Yoko Ono, accused of breaking up the Beatles with her "seduction" of John Lennon. Leslie Bow here explores how representations of females transgressing the social order play out in literature by Asian American women. Questions of ethnic belonging, sexuality, identification, and political allegiance are among the issues raised by such writers as Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, Bharati Mukherjee, Jade Snow Wong, Amy Tan, Sky Lee, Le Ly Hayslip, Wendy Law-Yone, Fiona Cheong, and Nellie Wong. Beginning with the notion that feminist and Asian American identity are mutually exclusive, Bow analyzes how women serve as boundary markers between ethnic or national collectives in order to reveal the male-based nature of social cohesion.

In exploring the relationship between femininity and citizenship, liberal feminism and American racial discourse, and women's domestic abuse and human rights, the author suggests that Asian American women not only mediate sexuality's construction as a determiner of loyalty but also manipulate that construction as a tool of political persuasion in their writing. The language of betrayal, she argues, offers a potent rhetorical means of signaling how belonging is policed by individuals and by the state. Bow's bold analysis exposes the stakes behind maintaining ethnic, feminist, and national alliances, particularly for women who claim multiple loyalties.

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Black Communist in the Freedom Struggle

The Life of Harry Haywood

Harry Haywood

Mustering out of the U.S. army in 1919, Harry Haywood stepped into a battle that was to last the rest of his life. Within months, he found himself in the middle of one of the bloodiest race riots in U.S. history and realized that he’d been fighting the wrong war—the real enemy was right here at home. This book is Haywood’s eloquent account of coming of age as a black man in twentieth-century America and of his political awakening in the Communist Party.

For all its cultural and historical interest, Harry Haywood’s story is also noteworthy for its considerable narrative drama. The son of parents born into slavery, Haywood tells how he grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, found his first job as a shoeshine boy in Minneapolis, then went on to work as a waiter on trains and in restaurants in Chicago. After fighting in France during the war, he studied how to make revolutions in Moscow during the 1920s, led the Communist Party’s move into the Deep South in 1931, helped to organize the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, worked with the Sharecroppers’ Union, supported protests in Chicago against Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, fought with the International Brigades in Spain, served in the Merchant Marines during World War II, and continued to fight for the right of self-determination for the Afro-American nation in the United States until his death in 1985.

This new edition of his classic autobiography, Black Bolshevik, introduces American readers to the little-known story of a brilliant thinker, writer, and activist whose life encapsulates the struggle for freedom against all odds of the New Negro generation that came of age during and after World War I.

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