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  • Editor’s Preface
  • Anita Mannur

In 2016 something rather remarkable happened in the literary world. Vietnamese American Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his debut novel, The Sympathizer. Around the same time, The Vegetarian, a novel written by the South Korean Han Kang and translated by Deborah Smith won the Man Booker International Prize. The latter prize, not to be confused with the Man Booker Prize, was established in 2005 and biennially rewards an author for a body of work originally written in any language as long as it is widely available in English. Though Asians and Asian Americans have won these awards, as well as the Booker Prize, in years past (recall the success of Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kiran Desai, Arundhati Roy, Aravind Adiga), something markedly different was at play in 2016 when these books were announced as winners. Their successes, though an evolving phenomenon, were not exclusively national phenomena. Media outlets and bloggers from around the world have reviewed both novels. In London, where I spent six weeks this summer, bookstore employees at Waterstones, London Review of Books, and Foyles all told me that these two titles were flying of the shelves. I myself got so caught up in “Vegetarian Sympathizer” fever, I purchased British editions of the books for my own collection. But most intriguingly, people are talking about these novels. Literature in translation, narratives about the refugee experience, a war story, stories about embodiment and violence by people of color are being read by the lay public. At a political and social moment when xenophobia seems at an all-time high, there is some solace one can take in knowing that fiction is providing alternative worldviews and that readers are hungry for more works like this. I am not so naïve as to extrapolate this as a sign [End Page v] of improving race relations or better transnational understanding; rather I wish to begin with this to think about the possible links across nations and borders that these works foreground. In particular, if we think of the art of collaboration as a driving force, what might our versions of Asian American studies at the end of eight years of an Obama presidency look like?

The articles gathered in this issue are among the first under my editorship to decenter the United States within Asian American studies. Like the aforementioned novels and their networks of collaboration and circulation, the subjects of study in each article rest uneasily within narrow visions of any kind of national space. Robert Diaz considers queer Filipino cultural production in Canada, examining how queer diasporic migrants subtend the hierarchizing practices of Canadian multiculturalism and settler colonialism. He argues that artists like Julius Manapul and events like Miss Gay Philippines Canada enact utopic pursuits through cultural practices that create new possibilities for imagining collectivity, community, and belonging in Canada, beyond the pluralist narratives of diversity often maintained by the state. Sanae Nakatani considers how Nisei architects participated in major building projects in the mid-twentieth century. Noting that in the 1950s, Nisei architect Minoru Yamasaki designed a new U.S. consulate building in Kobe, and Isamu Noguchi created the Japanese garden for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, these Nisei cultural producers combined Japanese visual elements with modernist aesthetics in their works to signal their capability as a translator between the East and the West. Kareem Khubchandani considers the indie film Loins of Punjab as an exceptional representation of interracial desire in South Asian diasporic cultural production. Beyond the novelty of their representation, Khubchandani asserts that the film deploys a variety of black and South Asian performance styles to critique normative and disciplinary systems. Kristina Vassil’s article contributes to the burgeoning study of transnational texts written in languages other than English by providing a case study of Hosaka Ki’ichi’s The America That I See (1913–14), written as a sequel to Natsume Sōseki’s famous I Am a Cat (1905–6). Finally, Stephen Suh examines representations of Koreatown provided by three contemporary television/web programs: Ktown Cowboys (2009), K-Town (2012–13), and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013). In so doing he considers how a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-8598
Print ISSN
1097-2129
Pages
pp. v-vii
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-18
Open Access
No
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