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two Asian Américo H aving written George Washington Gómez, and somewhat like Guálinto, Américo Paredes left the Lower Rio Grande Valley in late 1944 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. By the time his training was over, the war was drawing to a close, and he wound up in Japan during the occupation after August 1945.That September 3, he turned thirty. With some experience as a journalist in the Valley, he served out his tour working for the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes, covering and filing stories on a myriad of small and large events happening in postwar Japan. After his discharge in 1946, Paredes remained in Asia for four more years during which he worked for the Red Cross but also as a journalist. He also continued to produce creative writing as he had done in South Texas before the war, the latter principally George Washington Gómez, with its critique of Anglo-Mexican relations in South Texas, as we have seen.1 Indeed, in The Borderlands of Culture, Ramón Saldívar argues for continuities and parallels between Paredes’s critical understanding of the conflict in his native South Texas Mexican community and his view of the occupied Japanese relative to their respective and oppressive AngloAmerican occupiers. Further yet, Saldívar argues that Paredes’s Asian experience was vital to the latter’s postwar intellectual work, which we will take up in subsequent chapters. In what follows, I want to question the manner in which Saldívar, and perhaps Paredes himself, too easily establish a commonality between border Mexicans and the Japanese, even as I also wish to question Saldívar’s understanding of the relationship of Asia to Paredes’s postwar work. But in a second section I also wish to return to some key instances in Paredes’s Asian fiction—interesting paradoxical moments—when Paredes appears asian américo « 37 » to break down the binary between “Anglos” on the one oppressive hand, and on the other, the allegedly subaltern pairing of Mexicans and Japanese created by critic Saldívar, seemingly after Paredes. Put another way, I am proposing that Saldívar offers a particular rendering of Paredes as a vital, dynamic, and critically postcolonial transnational cultural critic, whose transnationalism extended beyond the United States and Mexico, and their border. While Paredes does occasionally lend himself to such a reading, other evidence suggests a more complex and ultimately national and regional figure. the problem of “asia” Paredes’s creative writing before the war certainly focused largely on Anglo-Mexican relations in South Texas. Perhaps surprisingly, the prewar Paredes also addressed Asian countries, if briefly, in his major work from that period: the already discussed novel George Washington Gómez, with its young protagonist, Guálinto. At one later point in the novel, Guálinto and some of his high school friends are conversing with two JapaneseAmerican classmates, brothers and children of Japanese farmers who came to South Texas in the earlier part of the century. Jimmy and Bob Shigemara were the sons of a prosperous Japanese truck farmer . . . fat, well-fed boys who talked a glib, smooth English and were much liked by all their schoolmates. . . . Jimmy Shigemara was saying, “Of course we’re not the same race as the Chinese. We’re much more civilized.” . . . The group talked a little longer about the relative merits of the Chinese and the Japanese, and [George] agreed enthusiastically with Jimmy and Bob Shigemara that the Japanese were a very wonderful people. (170) Given George’s eventual development into an assimilated, if psychologically fraught, American, one cannot help but imagine that Paredes is suggesting , in wry irony, that as part of that fraught development, George is also learning certain ethnocentric attitudes even as, in adolescent fashion, he plays up to the prosperous and well-liked Shigemara boys. Yet, as we shall see, perhaps this encounter is less than ironical and oddly more predictive of Américo Paredes’s later encounter with these same two Asian peoples during the immediate post–World War II period that he spent in Asia.2 « 38 » Américo Paredes With very few exceptions, Paredes took very well to the Japanese during the occupation period, in both cultural/aesthetic and political terms, and Saldívar quite accurately records this perspective. In cultural/aesthetic terms, Paredes reports, It was eerie and wonderful to be in Tokyo in those days. . . . When I arrived it was still...


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