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Area and Ethnic Studies > American Studies > Asian American Studies

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From Orphan to Adoptee Cover

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From Orphan to Adoptee

U.S. Empire and Genealogies of Korean Adoption

SooJin Pate


Since the 1950s, more than 100,000 Korean children have been adopted by predominantly white Americans; they were orphans of the Korean War, or so the story went. But begin the story earlier, as SooJin Pate does, and what has long been viewed as humanitarian rescue reveals itself as an exercise in expanding American empire during the Cold War.

Transnational adoption was virtually nonexistent in Korea until U.S. military intervention in the 1940s. Currently it generates $35 million in revenue—an economic miracle for South Korea and a social and political boon for the United States. Rather than focusing on the families “made whole” by these adoptions, this book identifies U.S. militarism as the condition by which displaced babies became orphans, some of whom were groomed into desirable adoptees, normalized for American audiences, and detached from their past and culture.

Using archival research, film, and literary materials—including the cultural work of adoptees—Pate explores the various ways in which Korean children were employed by the U.S. nation-state to promote the myth of American exceptionalism, to expand U.S. empire during the burgeoning Cold War, and to solidify notions of the American family. In From Orphan to Adoptee we finally see how Korean adoption became the crucible in which technologies of the U.S. empire were invented and honed.

From Wonso Pond Cover

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From Wonso Pond

Kang Kyong-Ae

From Wonso Pond is the first complete work written by a woman before the Korean War to be published in English. It is a classic proletariat novel that uses the suffering of the peasants and the proletariat in the early 20th century as a backdrop to a love triangle. This novel explores life in Korea through the orphaned Sonbi; her destitute childhood neighbor, Ch’otchae; and a law student, Sinch’ol. It follows them through the hardships of rural poverty and village life dominated by a greedy and corrupt landlord to dangerous, underpaid work in the city. All three become part of an underground activist network in Inchon.

Hapa Girl Cover

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Hapa Girl

A Memoir

May-lee Chai

In the mid-1960s, Winberg Chai, a young academic and the son of Chinese immigrants, married an Irish-American artist. In Hapa Girl ("hapa" is Hawaiian for "mixed") their daughter tells the story of this loving family as they moved from Southern California to New York to a South Dakota farm by the 1980s. In their new Midwestern home, the family finds itself the object of unwelcome attention, which swiftly escalates to violence. The Chais are suddenly socially isolated and barely able to cope with the tension that arises from daily incidents of racial animosity, including random acts of cruelty.

May-lee Chai's memoir ends in China, where she arrives just in time to witness a riot and demonstrations. Here she realizes that the rural Americans' "fears of change, of economic uncertainty, of racial anxiety, of the unknowable future compared to the known past were the same as China's. And I realized finally that it had not been my fault."

The History of Modern Japanese Education Cover

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The History of Modern Japanese Education

Constructing the National School System, 1872-1890

Benjamin Duke

The History of Modern Japanese Education is the first analysis in any Western language of the creation of the Japanese national school system based primarily on Japanese-language documents, a major step forward in the scholarship on this important subject. So fresh and thorough, it is likely to be the definitive resource on the topic of the Japanese national school system for many decades to come.

Hmong in Minnesota Cover

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Hmong in Minnesota

Chia Youyee Vang

Minnesota has always been a land of immigrants. Successive waves have each made their own way, found their place, and made it their home. The Hmong are one of the most recent immigrant groups, and their remarkable and moving story is told in Hmong in Minnesota. Chia Youyee Vang reveals the colorful, intricate history of Hmong Minnesotans, many of whom were forced to flee their homeland of Laos when the communists seized power during the Vietnam War. Having assisted U.S. troops in the “Secret War,” Hmong soldiers and civilians were eligible to settle in the United States. Vang offers a unique window into the lives of the Minnesota Hmong through the stories of individuals who represent the experiences of many. One voice is that of Mao Heu Thao, one of the first refugees to come to Minnesota, sponsored by Catholic Charities in 1976. She tells of the unexpectedly cold weather, the strange food, and the kindness of her hosts. By introducing readers to the immigrants themselves, Hmong in Minnesota conveys a population’s struggle to adjust to new environments, build communities, maintain cultural practices, and make its mark on government policies and programs.

Hog’s Exit Cover

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Hog’s Exit

Jerry Daniels, the Hmong, and the CIA

Gayle L. Morrison

It just didn’t sit right. Not with his friends, not with his coworkers, not with his hunting and fishing buddies, and certainly not with his family. The American Embassy in Bangkok had reported the accidental death of Jerry “Hog” Daniels by carbon monoxide poisoning. Three decades later, his family and most of his friends remain unconvinced that the U.S. government told them the truth about his death.
            As a former CIA case officer to legendary Hmong leader General Vang Pao during the “secret war” in Laos, Jerry Daniels was experienced, smart, and careful. Those who knew him well said he wasn’t the type to die as reported. Raising even more doubts, his casket was “Permanently Sealed” by the U.S. State Department before being shipped home to Missoula, Montana, where he was honored with a three-day funeral ceremony organized by his former comrades-in-arms, the Hmong hilltribe warriors from Laos.
            This book examines the unique personality and reported death of a man who was a pivotal agent in U.S./Hmong history. Friends and family share their memories of Daniels growing up in Montana, cheating death in Laos, and carousing in the bars and brothels of Thailand. First-person accounts from Americans and Hmong, ranchers and refugees, State Department officials and smokejumpers capture both human and historical stories about the life of this dedicated and irreverent individual and offer speculation on the unsettling circumstances of his death. Equally important, Hog’s Exit is the first complete account in English to document the drama and beauty of the Hmong funeral process.
            Hog’s Exit provides a fascinating view of a man and the two very different cultures in which he lived.

Hollywood Asian Cover

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Hollywood Asian

Philip Ahn and the Politics of Cross-Ethnic Performance

Hye Seung Chung

From silent films to television programs, Hollywood has employed actors of various ethnicities to represent "Oriental"characters, from Caucasian stars like Loretta Young made up in yellow-face to Korean American pioneer Philip Ahn, whose more than 200 screen performances included roles as sadistic Japanese military officers in World War II movies and a wronged Chinese merchant in the TV show Bonanza. The first book-length study of Korean identities in American cinema and television, Hollywood Asian investigates the career of Ahn (1905-1978), a pioneering Asian American screen icon and son of celebrated Korean nationalist An Ch'ang-ho. In this groundbreaking scholarly study, Hye Seung Chung examines Ahn's career to suggest new theoretical paradigms for addressing cross-ethnic performance and Asian American spectatorship. Incorporating original material from a wide range of sources, including U.S. government and Hollywood screen archives, Chung's work offers a provocative and original contribution to cinema studies, cultural studies, and Asian American as well as Korean history.

Hollywood Goes Oriental Cover

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Hollywood Goes Oriental

CaucAsian Performance in American Film

Karla Rae Fuller

An in-depth look at the portrayal of Asian characters by non-Asian actors in classical Hollywood film.

Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear Cover

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Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear

A Japanese American Memoir

Kathleen Tamagawa, Edited by Greg Robinson and Elena Tajima Creef

Originally published in 1932, Kathleen Tamagawa’s pioneering Asian American memoir is a sensitive and thoughtful look at the personal and social complexities of growing up racially mixed during the early twentieth century. Born in 1893 to an Irish American mother and a Japanese father and raised in Chicago and Japan, Tamagawa reflects on the difficulty she experienced fitting into either parent’s native culture.

            She describes how, in America, her every personal quirk and quality was seen as quintessentially Japanese and how she was met unpredictably with admiration or fear—perceived as a “Japanese doll” or “the yellow menace.” When her family later moved to Japan, she was viewed there as a “Yankee,” and remained an outsider in that country as well. As an adult she came back to the United States as an American diplomat’s wife, but had trouble feeling at home in any place.

            This edition, which also includes Tamagawa’s recently rediscovered short story, “A Fit in Japan,” and a critical introduction, will challenge readers to reconsider how complex ethnic identities are negotiated and how feelings of alienation limit human identification in any society. 

 

How to Be South Asian in America: Narratives of Ambivalence and Belonging Cover

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How to Be South Asian in America: Narratives of Ambivalence and Belonging

Providing a useful analysis of and framework for understanding immigration and assimilation narratives, anupama jain's How to Be South Asian in America considers the myth of the American Dream in fiction (Meena Alexander's Manhattan Music), film (American Desi, American Chai), and personal testimonies. By interrogating familiar American stories in the context of more supposedly exotic narratives, jain illuminates complexities of belonging that also reveal South Asians' anxieties about belonging, (trans)nationalism, and processes of cultural interpenetration.

jain argues that these stories transform as well as reflect cultural processes, and she shows just how aspects of identity—gender, sexual, class, ethnic, national—are shaped by South Asians' accommodation of and resistance to mainstream American culture.

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