Essays On Being Asian American

Essays On Being Asian American-1
, both published in 2015 by New York University Press and Cambridge University Press, respectively, constitute scholarly attempts at encompassing the most crucial developments that have taken place within the field of Asian American studies in the last few decades.

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Kim’s 1982 , edited by King-Kok Cheung and published in 1997, both of which tried to map the contours of Asian American literature in their respective decades.

Kim’s study shared the tendency of much early Asian American scholarship to center on the experiences and cultural productions of East Asians, particularly the Chinese and Japanese, while Cheung’s collection attempted to be more inclusive with chapters devoted to South Asian American or Vietnamese American writing.

Kandice Chuh and Karen Shimakawa’s “Adjudicating Asian America” is in turn an analysis of the role played by American legal system in the exclusion and regulation of Asianness from the mid-nineteenth century court cases that tried to “determine what Asianness is in relation to the categories of blackness and whiteness” (32) to the post-9/11 legal backlash against Arab Americans and South Asian Americans.

Chuh and Shimakawa illustrate the specific laws they discuss with examples of literary representations of the consequences the implementation of these laws brought.

These are “Asian” and “American” that function as “an implicit point of entry” (4) for all the contributors, who need to address the charged character of these terms.

The entries that may stir particular interest, especially when read against one another, are those that address the tensions and discontinuities inherent in the field of Asian American studies.Song discusses one of the most prevalent literary genres associated with Asian America, that of immigrant narrative, which is currently being challenged and refused by many second-generation Asian American writers.Chapter Two, “America’s Empire and the Asia-Pacific: Constructing Hawai’i and the Philippines” by Denise Cruz and Erin Suzuki, analyzes the works of such influential early writers as Felicidad Ocampo, José Garcia Villa and Carlos Bulosan as well as more contemporary authors who in their works address the history of the US presence in their respective areas.As the editors explain in the introduction to the volume, their intention was to give the readers a sense of the evolution of the field since its inception in the wake of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s to the present day, when Asian American studies programs constitute an integral part of university curricula across the United States.Thus, the editors invited scholars representing diverse fields–including humanities, cultural and social studies–to produce a collection whose heterogeneity and multidiciplinarity would be a reflection of the heterogeneity and multidisciplinarity of the field itself.Quite a few of the concepts analyzed in the book would naturally be applicable to other minorities as well–for example, “deportation,” “law” or “race.” The inclusion of other concepts may, on the other hand, come as a surprise to the reader–for example, “environment” and “health”–as typically little attention is given to them in the context of Asian American studies.At other times, the reader’s expectations concerning the term in question may be challenged.In Chapter Nine, “Model Minority Narratives and the Asian American Family,” Erin Ninh engages in the re-reading of (in)famous narratives of intergenerational conflict–including, among others, Maxine Hong Kingston’s –that have been scathingly criticized by Asian American scholars for “selling out” to the mainstream.Ninh shows that what the subtext of these novels reveals is the economic character of the intergenerational conflict.Yet, as time passes and new developments occur, it is necessary to periodically rethink what Asian American studies and Asian American literature are, and this is precisely what the two reviewed books endeavor to an alphabetically organized collection of sixty-one short entries on the most crucial concepts that have shaped the field of Asian American studies.


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