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Contemporary Writing by Hmong Americans
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.
The Art and Identity Crisis of Yasuo Kuniyoshi
"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.
Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego
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.
Feminism, Sexual Politics, Asian American Women's Literature
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.
The Life of 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.
Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America
When South Asians immigrated to the United States in great numbers in the 1970s, they were passionately driven to achieve economic stability and socialize the next generation to retain the traditions of their home culture. During these years, the immigrant community went to great lengths to project an impeccable public image by denying the existence of social problems such as domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, mental illness, racism, and intergenerational conflict. It was not until recently that activist groups have worked to bring these issues out into the open. In Body Evidence, more than twenty scholars and public health professionals uncover the unique challenges faced by victims of violence in intimate spaces . . . within families, communities and trusted relationships in South Asian American communities. Topics include cultural obsession with women's chastity and virginity; the continued silence surrounding intimate violence among women who identify themselves as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; the consequences of refusing marriage proposals or failing to meet dowry demands; and, ultimately, the ways in which the United States courts often confuse and exacerbate the plights of these women.
Long considered the dean of modern Philippine literature, N. V. M. Gonzalez has influenced an entire generation of young Philippine writers and has also acquired a devoted international readership. His books, however, are not widely available in this country. The Bread of Salt and Other Stories provides a retrospective selection of sixteen of his short stories (all originally written in English), arranged in order of their writing, from the early 1950s to the present day.
This is a powerful collection, both for the unity and universality of the author's subjects and themes and for the distinctive character of his prose style. As Gonzalez remarks in his Preface: "In tone and subject matter, [these stories] might suggest coming full circle - in the learning of one's craft, in finding a language and, finally, in discovering a country of one's own."
Gonzalez has traveled widely and has taught the writer's craft in various countries. Nonetheless, his primary metaphor is his colonial island homeland, and his stories are peopled with the farmers and fishermen, the schoolteachers and small-town merchants, "the underclass who constitute the majority in all societies." He portrays, in the men, women, and children of the peasantry, an ordinary and enduring people who live lives of stark dignity against a backdrop of forgotten and unknown gods. A broad humanity suggests itself: "This feeling of having emerged out of a void, or something close to it, is not uncommon, and we face our respective futures predisposed, by an innocence, to prayer and hope."
Colonization, Gonzalez feels, has created in Filipinos "a truly submerged people." The stories in The Bread of Salt explore this rich vein at several levels, from the river-crossed wilderness of the kaingin farmers, stoic in the hard face of nature; to the commercial centers of the town dwellers, cut off from the mythic animism of the land; to the America of the contemporary sojourner, exiled from the old ways without the guidance of new traditions. Gonzalez writes: "It was in America that I began to recognize my involvement in the process of becoming a new person... of trying to shed my skin as a colonial."
Gonzalez's social commentary is implicit throughout his stories. His message is humane, moral, tellingly accurate, and gently ironic; he is neither sentimental nor doctrinaire. His narratives are presented without intrusive explanation, invoking instead the reader's own powers of contemplation and discovery. His strong prose style, spare yet lyrical suggests the cadences of Philippine oral narrative traditions.
Each of these sixteen tales is a small masterpiece. The language and its imagery, the characters and their aspirations, all connect powerfully with the reader and serve to illuminate the dreams of exiles and colonials, suggesting what it was like, as a Filipino, to witness the endless interacting of cultures.
Filipino Cultural Community Formation on the Internet
The dramatic growth of the Internet in recent years has provided opportunities for a host of relationships and communities—forged across great distances and even time—that would have seemed unimaginable only a short while ago.
In Building Diaspora, Emily Noelle Ignacio explores how Filipinos have used these subtle, cyber, but very real social connections to construct and reinforce a sense of national, ethnic, and racial identity with distant others. Through an extensive analysis of newsgroup debates, listserves, and website postings, she illustrates the significant ways that computer-mediated communication has contributed to solidifying what can credibly be called a Filipino diaspora. Lively cyber-discussions on topics including Eurocentrism, Orientalism, patriarchy, gender issues, language, and "mail-order-brides" have helped Filipinos better understand and articulate their postcolonial situation as well as their relationship with other national and ethnic communities around the world. Significant attention is given to the complicated history of Philippine-American relations, including the ways Filipinos are racialized as a result of their political and economic subjugation to U.S. interests.
As Filipinos and many other ethnic groups continue to migrate globally, Building Diaspora makes an important contribution to our changing understanding of "homeland." The author makes the powerful argument that while home is being further removed from geographic place, it is being increasingly territorialized in space.