Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)


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Interpreting recent American fiction in terms linked to the growing appreciation of culture's place in Interpreting recent American fiction in terms linked to the growing appreciation of culture's place in the globalization debate, this book offers an innovative, critical approach to the study of contemporary literature. Prompted by the contemporary American novel's preoccupation with consumerism Filthy Fictions addresses Asian American literature by women to explore and explode the sedimented and Filthy Fictions addresses Asian American literature by women to explore and explode the sedimented and solidified meanings we have created about 'Asian Americans' and 'dirt' through dialogues that not only cross disciplinary and institutional formations and borders, but also question For purposes of this book, has defined Asian American literature as "published creative writings in English by Americans of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino descent.

This is not to say that writings in Asian languages are unimportant to a study of Asian American literature and experience: they are simply beyond the purview of this study, and I am confident that they will be presented elsewhere.


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Nor have I included in this book literature about Asia written by Asian Americans in English, except when it is revealing of the Asian American consciousness. The titles of Kim's chapters suggest how she has approached what she has qualified as Asian American literature. The scope of this book reflects the political state of both the times and of Kim's own mind at time she wrote it, and her personal interest in Korean American literature.

Anthologies of Asian American fiction and poetry were just beginning to appear.

1 Introduction

Maxine Hong Kingston had recently made her debut but the book world had yet heard of Amy Tan. Even the label "Asian American" was relatively new and surrounded with more controversy than today. One reason to skim through this book is to glimpse the sort of thinking that was going on at the time Kim wrote it -- some fifteen years after the start of the student movements that resulted in the creation of ethnic studies departments at UC Berkeley and other colleges.

Another reason is the first chapter, "Images of Asians in Anglo-American Literature", which begins like this page 3. Caricatures of Asians have been part of the American popular culture for generations. The power-hungry despot, the helpless heathen, the sensuous dragon lady, the comical loyal servant, and the pudgy, de-sexed detective who talks about Confucius are all part of the standard American image of the Asian. Anglo-American writers of some literary merit have used these popular stereotypes, although usually not as a focus for their work: Chinese caricatures can be found in the pages of Bret Harte, Jack London, John Steinbeck, Frank Norris, and other writers about the American West, and even in such unlikely places as Louisa May Alcott's books for children.

But, for the most part, the enormous body of Anglo-American literature containing these caricatures, particularly those dealing primarily with Asians as a theme, are of much lesser stuff -- pulp novels and dime romances of varying degrees of literary quality. Such Asian-themed "much lesser stuff" by "Anglo-American writers" constitutes a large part of what this website is calling "Steamy East" fiction.

Kim presents a reasonable overview of well-known early 20th century "pulp" novels, including those about Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and Mr. She contends, correctly I think, that Anglo-American literature portrays Chinese more frequently than other Asian groups. She also contends, and again I am inclined to agree, that depictions of Chinese tend to be extend to Asians generally, "particularly since Westerners traditionally found it difficult to distinguish among the East Asian nationalities" page 4.

There are two basic kinds of stereotypes of Asians in Anglo-American literature: the "bad" Asian and the "good" Asian. The "bad" Asians are the sinister villains and brute hordes, neither of which can be controlled by the Anglos and both of which must therefore be destroyed. The "good" Asians are the helpless heathens to be saved by Anglo heroes or the loyal and lovable allies, sidekicks, and servants. In both cases, the Anglo-American portrayal of the Asian serves primarily as a foil to describe the Anglo as "not-Asian": when the Asian is heartless and treacherous, the Anglo is shown indirectly as imbued with integrity and humanity; when the Asian is a cheerful and docile inferior, he projects the Anglo's benevolence and importance.

The comical, cowardly servant placates a strong and intelligent white master; the helpless heathen is saved by a benevolent white savior; the clever Chinese detective solves mysteries for the benefit of his ethical white clients and colleagues. A common thread running through these portrayals is the establishment of and emphasis on permanent and irreconcilable differences between the Chinese and the Anglo, differences that define the Anglo as superior physically, spiritually, and morally. It is truly a delight to read what Elaine Kim writes -- however one might now and then like to demur -- because she writes with a clarity and cogency of prose that sparkles against the dull and leaden "discourse" of many of her English lit colleagues.

Here I would simply point out that -- yes, both "good" and "bad" Asians in Anglo fiction tend to serve the purpose of illuminating Anglos in a superior light -- but name one racialized body of literature that does not, in general, set out to reflect better on the race represented by the writers. I would even contend that the bulk of "minority literature" also deploys majorities in roles contrived to reveal their inferiority through stereotypic faults. When a Eurasian girl longs for freedom, she is "white at heart. Again, I would demur that the conventions of most racialized bodies of literature use extractors as exotic blends of outsiders and insiders, in order to suggest that their better, "more like us" qualities tend to descend from insiders.

Witness the treatment of mixed-blood protagonists in, say, Japanese literature. Their bodies may be sexually enhanced by admixtures of white, black, or whatever physical traits, but their hearts, if they have truly human sensibilities, are Japanese.

Kim does, however, make an interesting if somewhat overgeneralized differentiation between how Eurasians are portrayed in Anglo-American literature as one racialized body of literature , compared with literature written by mixed-ancestry authors page , note The literature written by writers of mixed ancestry provides a startling contrast to the portrayals of the Eurasian in Anglo-American literature. In contrast to the popular Anglo-American notion of Eurasian self-hatred, Chang's and Han's novels depict protagonists who do not regard their Asian heritage as a handicap.

They are not particularly restless; they neither wish to be dead nor white; and they are not ashamed of China or the Chinese. No wars are waged in the veins of the type described in Anglo-American literature, although the part-Chinese protagonists are depicted as ashamed of non-Chinese who are bigoted.

This note runs nearly two pages, in a finer print than in the chapters. It is one of many notes, and one of several extended notes, that could and should have been incorporated into the chapters. It seems to me that Kim has no choice but to make "Eurasian" writers sit in the back of the bus -- because she herself has racialized her study as one of "images" in "Anglo-American" literature versus "portraits" in "Asian American" literature -- and "Eurasians" simply fall between her twain. Yardbird Reader , a journal dedicated to ethnic writing and some graphics, was founded by Al Young and Ishmael Reed in and annually published until Reed, the editorial director, was closely associated with Shawn Wong and Frank Chin, who guest edited Volume 3, devoted mostly to Asian American writers and their writing.

Two paragraphs in Frank Chin's introductory tribute to Yardbird Publishing declare the purpose of the issue page v. To virtually all American yellows there's no such thing as Asian American writing. Shawn Wong and me are taking advantage of this volume of YARDBIRD READER to print up a little proof from the past, a few years ago and right now that it is a crying damn shame to have to cut your heart out, go amnesiac, call yourself shit to your kids, lie about yellows never writing and live and lie as part of the price of acceptance in America. The first three paragraphs of the "Introduction to Yardbird Reader 3" by Frank Chin and Shawn Hsu Wong continue to set the critical tone of the volume page vi.

We have a friend up in Seattle that sells books. David Ishii. Go into his store down at Pioneer Square and ask him what he's got under the counter. You might come up with something real valuable. It sells for a dollar. I know the magazine is there because I sent him 25 of them. It's the first collection of Asian American essays to reach print in America. And that was the first publication in seven generations of our being here.

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The state of Washington has always been the capitol of Asian American culture. The Seattle city councilman also has a Chinatown museum named in his memory. San Francisco, meanwhile, worked hard to build a racist kennel. The sampling of fiction and poetry in this volume is different from the sampling in Aiieeee! Marie Wunsch has taught American and multicultural literature and history at universities in Illinois, California, and Hawaii, and is now a professor in the Colleges on Line program at the University of Wisconsin College on Line.

A daughter of Czechoslovakian and Croatian immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania, she lived in Hawaii for fourteen years, where she did the research for this dissertation. Wunsch attempts to show how Asian American writers themselves have contributed to common American stereotypes about Asia and Asian America. A complex combination of forces from within the ethnic community and from the American social and political milieu has influenced second generation Chinese, Korean and Japanese-American writers, both in the number and kinds of works produced.

The majority of Asian-American autobiographies and novels dealing with the ethnic experience and published generally between the s and s are the romanticized, stereotypic ones that both fit the expectations of the majority reader about Asians in America and at the same time do not threaten the delicate psychic security of the immigrant, ethnic group. Among the most significant influences on the interpretations of personal and group experience portrayed in these works seem to be those created by the images and stereotypes about Asian [sic] in the American popular culture.

Americans continue to have extensive ignorance about Asians from the immigrant periods and into the present and consequently, distorted images about the Asian-American experience. This work undertakes an analysis of the novels and autobiographies written primarily by second generation Chinese, Korean and Japanese-American writers to illustrate that they also became a part of the complex cycle of distortion.

The analysis attempts to show the patterns of these writers reflecting and interpreting, rather than recording experiences. In doing so they were conforming to the American expectations of what Asian-American family life and individual roles should [emphasis in original] be. To accomplish this analysis, the study traces the use of the images of men, women and family as they are presented in the works and how they are set against and influenced by the pervasive images and stereotypes of Asians in America.

Wunsch was inspired to study the fictional and autobiographical stories of second-generation Asian Americans by similar studies of the literature of uprooted immigrants from Europe and their American children. Her study is thus very personal and sympathetic. While Wunsch narrates her own point of view, she does so by letting the authors of the stories she has selected speak for themselves.

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One of the works she twice mines for dramatic insights into the experiences of Asian Americans is Kathleen Tamagawa's Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear Japanese-American writers took up this theme [of marginality] as early as with Kathleen Tamagawa's Holy Prayers in a Horse's Ear , depicting the cultural conflicts of a Japanese-Irish-American woman.

Born in America of an Irish mother and a Japanese father, Tamagawa poignantly relates the ambiguities of being defined racially and culturally according to the stereotypes of the beholder. Living in both America and Japan in her early years, she experienced being insider and outsider in both cultures. Marrying an American Caucasian in , in what she considered an "Eurasian marriage," she presents a frank confession about life as "an ultimate international legal absurdity.

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Later in the chapter, Wunsch reveals more about the fate of the Kathleen Tamagawa's parents pages Kathleen is the daughter of an unusual interracial marriage between a traditional Japanese male and a fiery, liberated Caucasian woman in the s. He spends his formative years into adulthood in America, so when he takes his family to Japan to live he embodies a strange combination of Western practicality and Eastern patience. When his wife, Kate, full of romantic dreams of Japan out of Lafcadio Hearn and Pierre Loti wants to go native, Tamagawa "isn't going to live without a stove in the house.

Nor will he return to Tamagawa village to assume the familial duties of the oldest male.

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The author's portrayal of the father is less clearly drawn and remembered than that of the exceptional, dominant mother. Father Tamagawa returned to Japan as a silk merchant and remained there until his death; his wife, fearful of earthquakes, left for America with her daughter and never saw him again.

Wunsch wrote her dissertation during the first decade of the age of feminist and ethnic studies.


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Not surprisingly, she saves for last a chapter called "Images and Stereotypes of Japanese Men and Women". And Kathleen Tamagawa's account of her life among whites and blacks in the American south, with her white husband, dominate the last four pages. And it is Tamagawa's holy prayer that Wunsch leaves in our horse's ear pages , bracketed clarifications and ellipses in original.

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Her racial ambiguity allows even her black scrubwoman to test her by trying to bring down an uppity near-black and get an edge on another possibly threatening minority. She refuses to work in the house with "them idols [some Japanese sculptures]. They have more emotional freedom because little is expected of them "by way of civilization" while she is expected to embody all the awesome culture of the entire East.

When her family finally settles in Washington, D. Thus ends a fairly credible look at some of the writings of the American "children of the uprooted" Chinese, Korean, and Japanese immigrants in America. Its major flaw in Wunsch's fashionable propensity to treat the literature she examines as evidence of "culture conflict". What Wunsch calls Kathleen Tamagawa's "cultural conflicts" page 88 are proven by her citations at the end to be anything but cultural.

Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction) Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)
Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction) Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)
Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction) Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)
Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction) Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)
Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction) Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home in the World (An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction)

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