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Racial Form and American Literature, 1893-1945
What explains the perception of Asians both as economic exemplars and as threats? America's Asia explores a discursive tradition that affiliates the East with modern efficiency, in contrast to more familiar primitivist forms of Orientalism. Colleen Lye traces the American stereotype of Asians as a "model minority" or a "yellow peril"--two aspects of what she calls "Asiatic racial form"-- to emergent responses to globalization beginning in California in the late nineteenth century, when industrialization proceeded in tandem with the nation's neocolonial expansion beyond its continental frontier.
From Progressive efforts to regulate corporate monopoly to New Deal contentions with the crisis of the Great Depression, a particular racial mode of social redress explains why turn-of-the-century radicals and reformers united around Asian exclusion and why Japanese American internment during World War II was a liberal initiative.
In Lye's reconstructed archive of Asian American racialization, literary naturalism and its conventions of representing capitalist abstraction provide key historiographical evidence. Arguing for the profound influence of literature on policymaking, America's Asia examines the relationship between Jack London and leading Progressive George Kennan on U.S.-Japan relations, Frank Norris and AFL leader Samuel Gompers on cheap immigrant labor, Pearl S. Buck and journalist Edgar Snow on the Popular Front in China, and John Steinbeck and left intellectual Carey McWilliams on Japanese American internment. Lye's materialist approach to the construction of race succeeds in locating racialization as part of a wider ideological pattern and in distinguishing between its different, and sometimes opposing, historical effects.
An Annotated Edition
Gendered Fictions of Nation and Transnation
Drawing on a wide array of literary, historical, and theoretical sources, Rachel Lee addresses current debates on the relationship among Asian American ethnic identity, national belonging, globalization, and gender. Lee argues that scholars have traditionally placed undue emphasis on ethnic-based political commitments--whether these are construed as national or global--in their readings of Asian American texts. This has constrained the intelligibility of stories that are focused less on ethnicity than on kinship, family dynamics, eroticism, and gender roles. In response, Lee makes a case for a reconceptualized Asian American criticism that centrally features gender and sexuality.
Through a critical analysis of select literary texts--novels by Carlos Bulosan, Gish Jen, Jessica Hagedorn, and Karen Yamashita--Lee probes the specific ways in which some Asian American authors have steered around ethnic themes with alternative tales circulating around gender and sexual identity. Lee makes it clear that what has been missing from current debates has been an analysis of the complex ways in which gender mediates questions of both national belonging and international migration. From anti-miscegenation legislation in the early twentieth century to poststructuralist theories of language to Third World feminist theory to critical studies of global cultural and economic flows, The Americas of Asian American Literature takes up pressing cultural and literary questions and points to a new direction in literary criticism.
Plays for a New Generation
Asian American plays provide an opportunity to think about how racial issues are engaged through theatrical performance physical contact, bodily labor, and fleshly desire as well as through the more standard elements of plot, setting, characterization, staging, music, and action.
Asian American Plays for a New Generation showcases seven exciting new plays that dramatize timely themes that are familiar to Asian Americans. The works variously address immigration, racism, stereotyping, identity, generational tensions, assimilation, and upward mobility as well as post-9/11 paranoia, racial isolation, and adoptee experiences.
Each of these works engages directly and actively with Asian American themes through performance to provide an important starting point for building relationships, raising political awareness, and creating active communities that can foster a sense of connection or even rally individuals to collective action.
Drawing from Anglo-American, Asian American, and Asian literature as well as J-horror and manga, Chinese cinema and Internet, and the Korean Wave, Sheng-mei Ma’s Asian Diaspora and East-West Modernity probes into the conjoinedness of West and East, of modernity’s illusion and nothing’s infinitude. Suspended on the stylistic tightrope between research and poetry, critical analysis and intuition, Asian Diaspora restores affect and heart to the experience of diaspora in between East and West, at-homeness and exilic attrition. Diaspora, by definition, stems as much from socioeconomic and collective displacement as it points to emotional reaction. This book thus challenges the fossilized conceptualizations in area studies, ontology, and modernism. The book's first two chapters trace the Asian pursuit of modernity into nothing, as embodied in horror film and the gaming motif in transpacific literature and film. Chapters three through eight focus on the borderlands of East and West, the edges of humanity and meaning. Ma examines how loss occasions a revisualization of Asia in children's books, how Asian diasporic passing signifies, paradoxically, both "born again" and demise of the "old" self, how East turns "yEast" or the agent of self-fashioning for Anglo-America, Asia, and Asian America, how the construct of “bugman” distinguishes modern West's and East's self-image, how the extreme human condition of "non-person" permeates the Korean Wave, and how manga artists are drawn to wartime Japan. The final two chapters interrogate the West's death-bound yet enlightening Orientalism in Anglo-American literature and China's own schizophrenic split, evidenced in the 2008 Olympic Games.
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.
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 thirteen stories in Birds of Paradise Lost shimmer with humor and pathos as they chronicle the anguish and joy and bravery of America's newest Americans, the troubled lives of those who fled Vietnam and remade themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area. The past--memories of war and its aftermath, of murder, arrest, re-education camps and new economic zones, of escape and shipwreck and atrocity--is ever present in these wise and compassionate stories.
Stories and a Novella
Together, the five stories and novella in this collection follow the lives of first- and second-generation Indian Americans living in contemporary California. The characters share a similar sensibility: a sense that immigration is a distant memory, yet an experience that continues to shape the decisions they make in subtle and surprising ways as they go about the complicated business of everyday living. The collection is anchored by the title novella about a love triangle between an aging, blind writer, his younger beautiful wife, and a young man desperate to start a writing life. Over several months, the three will get to know one another and move toward a moment that will change the lives of each of them forever.
Nam Kun and Nam Ki Han, brothers born on a Wahiawa sugar plantation, could not have been more different. Pragmatic and stubborn, Nam Kun dutifully supported his family but refused to become “one Christian fanatic” like his widowed mother and youngest sibling, Nam Ki. When Nam Ki is drafted into the army at the start of the Korean War, he tells Nam Kun that as a Christian he cannot kill. “You gotta do it,” Nam Kun replies, thinking the war will make a man of this “mama’s boy.”
Nam Ki finds refuge from the chaos and brutality of life as a soldier in his love for a young Korean woman, a Christian. He returns after the war to search for her and discovers she has become a prostitute. With his sense of reality shattered, Nam Ki must choose between his faith and all that he has witnessed in war-torn Korea. Brothers under a Same Sky explores the social and psychological turmoil experienced by Korean Americans during and after the war but, more important, it examines the individual’s decision to keep—or betray—a fundamental belief in human goodness. Set amid the social and political disruptions and forced separations that have characterized the history of modern Korea, this is the story of a struggle toward healing, unity, and perhaps a reconciliation between love and hatred.
Gary Pak is professor of English at the University of Hawai`i. His books include Children of a Fireland, A Ricepaper Airplane, and The Watcher of Waipuna and Other Stories.