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Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional “I” of lyric poetry---based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian “I”---to enact a more ethical relationship between the “I” and its others.Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas's idea of the ethics of alterity---which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness---Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry.The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries.The Poets: Marilyn Chin, Kimiko Hahn, Myung Mi Kim, Li Young Lee, Timothy Liu, David Mura, and John Yau
The Adaptation of Cambodian and Hmong Refugees in Four American Cities
Immigration studies have increasingly focused on how immigrant adaptation to their new homelands is influenced by the social structures in the sending society, particularly its economy. Less scholarly research has focused on the ways that the cultural make-up of immigrant homelands influences their adaptation to life in a new country. In Ethnic Origins, Jeremy Hein investigates the role of religion, family, and other cultural factors on immigrant incorporation into American society by comparing the experiences of two little-known immigrant groups living in four different American cities not commonly regarded as immigrant gateways. Ethnic Origins provides an in-depth look at Hmong and Khmer refugees—people who left Asia as a result of failed U.S. foreign policy in their countries. These groups share low socio-economic status, but are vastly different in their norms, values, and histories. Hein compares their experience in two small towns—Rochester, Minnesota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin—and in two big cities—Chicago and Milwaukee—and examines how each group adjusted to these different settings. The two groups encountered both community hospitality and narrow-minded hatred in the small towns, contrasting sharply with the cold anonymity of the urban pecking order in the larger cities. Hein finds that for each group, their ethnic background was more important in shaping adaptation patterns than the place in which they settled. Hein shows how, in both the cities and towns, the Hmong’s sharply drawn ethnic boundaries and minority status in their native land left them with less affinity for U.S. citizenship or “Asian American” panethnicity than the Khmer, whose ethnic boundary is more porous. Their differing ethnic backgrounds also influenced their reactions to prejudice and discrimination. The Hmong, with a strong group identity, perceived greater social inequality and supported collective political action to redress wrongs more than the individualistic Khmer, who tended to view personal hardship as a solitary misfortune, rather than part of a larger-scale injustice. Examining two unique immigrant groups in communities where immigrants have not traditionally settled, Ethnic Origins vividly illustrates the factors that shape immigrants’ response to American society and suggests a need to refine prevailing theories of immigration. Hein’s book is at once a novel look at a little-known segment of America’s melting pot and a significant contribution to research on Asian immigration to the United States.
Korean Greengrocers in New York City
Generations of immigrants have relied on small family businesses in their pursuit of the American dream. This entrepreneurial tradition remains highly visible among Korean immigrants in New York City, who have carved out a thriving business niche for themselves operating many of the city’s small grocery stores and produce markets. But this success has come at a price, leading to dramatic, highly publicized conflicts between Koreans and other ethnic groups. In Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival, Pyong Gap Min takes Korean produce retailers as a case study to explore how involvement in ethnic businesses—especially where it collides with the economic interests of other ethnic groups—powerfully shapes the social, cultural, and economic unity of immigrant groups. Korean produce merchants, caught between white distributors, black customers, Hispanic employees, and assertive labor unions, provide a unique opportunity to study the formation of group solidarity in the face of inter-group conflicts. Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival draws on census and survey data, interviews with community leaders and merchants, and a review of ethnic newspaper articles to trace the growth and evolution of Korean collective action in response to challenges produce merchants received from both white suppliers and black customers. When Korean produce merchants first attempted to gain a foothold in the city’s economy, they encountered pervasive discrimination from white wholesale suppliers at Hunts Point Market in the Bronx. In response, Korean merchants formed the Korean Produce Association (KPA), a business organization that gradually evolved into a powerful engine for promoting Korean interests. The KPA used boycotts, pickets, and group purchasing to effect enduring improvements in supplier-merchant relations. Pyong Gap Min returns to the racially charged events surrounding black boycotts of Korean stores in the 1990s, which were fueled by frustration among African Americans at a perceived economic invasion of their neighborhoods. The Korean community responded with rallies, political negotiations, and publicity campaigns of their own. The disappearance of such disputes in recent years has been accompanied by a corresponding reduction in Korean collective action, suggesting that ethnic unity is not inevitable but rather emerges, often as a form of self-defense, under certain contentious conditions. Solidarity, Min argues, is situational. This important new book charts a novel course in immigrant research by demonstrating how business conflicts can give rise to demonstrations of group solidarity. Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival is at once a sophisticated empirical analysis and a riveting collection of stories—about immigration, race, work, and the American dream.
A Cambodian Journey
As a child growing up in Cambodia, Ronnie Yimsut played among the ruins of the Angkor Wat temples, surrounded by a close-knit community. As the Khmer Rouge gained power and began its genocidal reign of terror, his life became a nightmare. In this stunning memoir, Yimsut describes how, in the wake of death and destruction, he decides to live.
Escaping the turmoil of Cambodia, he makes a perilous journey through the jungle into Thailand, only to be sent to a notorious Thai prison. Fortunately, he is able to reach a refugee camp and ultimately migrate to the United States, where he attended the University of Oregon and became an influential leader in the community of Cambodian immigrants. Facing the Khmer Rouge shows Ronnie Yimsut’s personal quest to rehabilitate himself, make a new life in America, and then return to Cambodia to help rebuild the land of his birth.
Second-Generation Spirituality in Korean American Churches
Second-generation Korean Americans, demonstrating an unparalleled entrepreneurial fervor, are establishing new churches with a goal of shaping the future of American Christianity. A Faith of Our Own investigates the development and growth of these houses of worship, a recent and rapidly increasing phenomenon in major cities throughout the United States. Including data gathered over ten years at twenty-two churches, it is the most comprehensive study of this topic that addresses generational, identity, political, racial, and empowerment issues.
How Filipino Exiles Toppled a Dictator
In this book, Jose V. Fuentecilla describes how Filipino exiles and immigrants in the United States played a crucial role in the grassroots revolution that overthrew the fourteen-year dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in 1986. A member of one of the major U.S.-based anti-Marcos movements, Fuentecilla tells the story of how small groups of Filipino exiles--short on resources and shunned by some of their compatriots--overcame fear, apathy, and personal differences to form opposition organizations after Marcos' imposition of martial law and learned to lobby the U.S. government during the Cold War. The first full-length book to detail the history of U.S.-based opposition to the Marcos regime, Fighting From a Distance provides valuable lessons on how to persevere in fighting a well-entrenched opponent.
DJs, Racial Authenticity, and the Hip-hop Nation
The “Hip-hop Nation” has been scouted, staked out, and settled by journalists and scholars alike. Antonio T. Tiongson Jr. steps into this well-mapped territory with questions aimed at interrogating how nation is conceptualized within the context of hip-hop. What happens, Tiongson asks, to notions of authenticity based on hip-hop’s apparent blackness when Filipino youth make hip-hop their own?
Tiongson draws on interviews with Bay Area–based Filipino American DJs to explore the authenticating strategies they rely on to carve out a niche within DJ culture. He shows how Filipino American youth involvement in DJing reconfigures the normal boundaries of Filipinoness predicated on nostalgia and cultural links with an idealized homeland. Filipinos Represent makes the case that while the engagement of Filipino youth with DJ culture speaks to the broadening racial scope of hip-hop—and of what it means to be Filipino—such involvement is also problematic in that it upholds deracialized accounts of hip-hop and renders difference benign.
Looking at the ways in which Filipino DJs legitimize their place in an expressive form historically associated with African Americans, Tiongson examines what these complex forms of identification reveal about the contours and trajectory of contemporary U.S. racial formations and discourses in the post–civil rights era.
Vietnamese International Marriages in the New Global Economy
Marriage is currently the number-one reason people migrate to the United States, and women constitute the majority of newcomers joining husbands who already reside here. But little is known about these marriage and migration streams beyond the highly publicized and often sensationalized phenomena of mail-order and military brides. Less commonly known is that most international couples are immigrants of the same ethnicity.
In For Better or For Worse, Hung Cam Thaitakes a closer look at marriage and migration, with a specific focus on the unions between Vietnamese men living in the United States and the women who marry them. Weaving together a series of personal stories, he underscores the ironies and challenges that these unions face. He includes the voices of working-class immigrant men dealing with marginalization in their adopted country. These men speak about wanting “traditional” wives who they hope will recognize their gendered authority. Meanwhile, young Vietnamese college-educated women, undesirable to bachelors in their own country who are seeking subservient wives, express a preference for men of the same ethnicity but with a more liberal outlook on gender—men they imagine they will find in the United States.
A sense of foreboding pervades the book as Thai captures the incompatible viewpoints of the couples who appear to be separated not only geographically but ideologically.
Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936
A Force for Change is the first full-length study of the life and work of one of Oregon’s most dynamic civil rights activists, Beatrice Morrow Cannady.
Between 1912 and 1936, Cannady tirelessly promoted interracial goodwill and fought segregation and discrimination. She gave hundreds of lectures to high school and college students and shared her message with radio listeners across the Pacific Northwest. She was assistant editor, and later publisher, of The Advocate, Oregon’s largest African American newspaper. Cannady was the first black woman to graduate from law school in Oregon, and the first to run for state representative. She held interracial teas in her home in Northeast Portland and protested repeated showings of the racist film The Birth of a Nation. And when the Ku Klux Klan swept into Oregon, she urged the governor to act quickly to protect black Oregonians’ right to live and work without fear. Despite these accomplishments, Beatrice Cannady fell into obscurity when she left Oregon in the late 1930s.
A Force for Change illuminates Cannady’s key role in advocating for better race relations in Oregon in the early decades of the twentieth century. It describes her encounters with the period’s leading black artists, editors, politicians, and intellectuals, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, A. Philip Randolph, Oscar De Priest, Roland Hayes, and James Weldon Johnson. It dispels the myth that African Americans played little part in Oregon’s history and it enriches our understanding of the black experience in Oregon and the civil rights movement across the country.
Hana Yamagawa and Her Reminiscences of a Century
Between 1889 and 1940 more than 40,000 Okinawan contract laborers emigrated to plantations in Hawaii, Brazil, the Philippines, and Peru. In 1912 seventeen-year-old Hana Kaneshi accompanied her husband and brother to South America and dreamed of returning home in two years’ time a wealthy young woman. Edited by her daughter Akiko, Hana’s richly detailed memoir is a rare, first-hand account of the life of a female Okinawan immigrant in the New World. It spans nearly a century, from Hana’s early life in a small village not long after the Ryukyu Kingdom’s annexation to Japan; to a sugar plantation in Peru and its capital, Lima; to her dangerous trek through Mexico and the California desert to enter the U.S. and start a new life, this time in the Imperial Valley and finally Los Angeles. Hana’s story comes full circle when she returns briefly, after forty-seven years, to Okinawa during the postwar American Occupation. From Okinawa to the Americas will appeal to not only students of Asian American and disapora studies, but also those seeking to understand the complexity of Okinawan culture and the networks of family relationships in Okinawa and in its overseas immigrant communities.