[identity profile] kidculli.livejournal.com

The book China Dolls, by Michelle Yu and Blossom Kan, is a Sex in the City -esque story that follows three friends on their journey of exploring what it means to be a Chinese American woman. The three women, M.J. , Alex, and Lin, have to struggle with the expectations set for them by their heritage, and at the same time, follow their dreams and deal with the pressure of being viewed differently in worlds dominated by men.

Yu and Kan make it a point to repeat the theme of dealing with cultural identity throughout the entire book. The book is sub-divided into 3 sections, each written in the perspective of one of the girls as they all experience 1 year together. M.J., a sportswriter belongs to the first section of the book. Her occupation places her in the midst of older white male counterparts, vying for the same interviews and sports stories. Marked by her race and gender, she has to work twice as hard as her colleagues to prove herself. At the same time her family and other friends constantly remind her that she is Chinese and should find a good Chinese man to settle down with, many of whom also have the traditional notion that Chinese woman should be the homemakers. Alex shares the same set of problems as she is a high-powered attorney where being a woman and Asian is a rarity. Lastly Lin follows suit as she is a stockbroker at Merrill Lynch. The book also explores other themes such as finding love, and letting go of the past.

The men come in two flavors in this story, Caucasian or Chinese. The authors don’t discriminate one race over the other; instead they portray the value and vices of both kinds of men. For example two main Chinese male characters in the story are Ming and Stephen. They each embody two sides of the spectrum; Ming is far more traditional than Stephen. Ming is characterized as the brotherly figure that looks out for the girls. Throughout the story he constantly warns the girls about white men, telling the girls that they will leave them heartbroken and that their parents would never accept them. On the other hand Stephen is characterized as almost the perfect Chinese husband. He has a good job, comes from a good family, he is adoring, and offers a stable relationship. Indeed other minor characters shape the portrayal of Chinese men in the book as well. One character Grant embodies the negative stereotype; he expects Chinese women to take care of their men, stay at home and raise children, and forget about having careers. Grant is portrayed as a close minded traditionalist.

Caucasian men are portrayed differently in the book. The main characters are generally charming, outgoing and more appealing than their Chinese counterparts. Indeed Alex and M.J. both end up with white boyfriends by the end of the book. Jagger is M.J.’s guy and he is portrayed as an outgoing jokester with a unique sense of style. Dressed in jeans and wacky t-shirts he is far from the clean cut figure that girls or even Chinese families would possibly accept. Brady, Alex’s man, is an assertive, charming lawyer. He is protective of Alex and is there for her. Although the Caucasian men may seem generally better they do have their flaws as well. Many of the minor characters like to flaunt their money around and some are intimidated by successful women. Kevin, M.J.’s former love interest is incapable of committing to her. Hailing from a posh family he broke up with her in high school yet met her again. He prefers to keep is options open rather than be tied down. Drew, a ladies man goes out with Lin however do to his spiteful nature and lack of trust inevitably explodes at Lin when their interoffice relationship is discovered. In the end Lin, goes back to her former ex Stephen. She misses the stability and care that he offered, showing that she still values what an idealized Chinese man can offer.

Although these men work with the women on a daily basis, the reason I believe that they chose to involve themselves with these men is because they offered risk, excitement, and even a chance to rebel against their cultural norm of being with Chinese men. As 2nd generation Chinese-Americans I believe Yu and Kan are trying to send the message that as the Chinese and American culture mix, it is time to break away from being overly traditional and embrace the idea of the strong, independent woman shared by feminists. 

I found this book a good read and found that the story and culture is something that many Asian Americans can relate to. The book does a great job of balancing the positives of the culture such as the close knit family, holidays and traditions, and emphasis of Chinese virtues with the negatives that come along with it such as the expectations, lectures, and over protectiveness. The book is about trying to balance the pressures of Chinese culture and American culture, and in the end, it suggests that it is the heterogeneous mix of cultures and values that make us who we are.
[identity profile] thebowlerhat.livejournal.com

Two weeks ago, some of the contributors and one of the editors of Walang Hiya: Literature Taking Risks Toward Liberatory Practice read at Saint Mary's College of California, which I had the privilege of attending with a friend. Although I did not have enough money to buy the book at the time, nor have I had the chance to read it yet, the poets and fiction writers who read were amazing.

In particular, one Filipina American performed her piece about banana leaves and the Maguindanao Massacre in the Philippines last year. She was shocked to see dead bodies of journalists wrapped in banana leaves, an image she'd previously associated with innocence and childhood memories of food. She decided to juxtapose the two in her poem: showing violence and imperialism on the one hand and singing verses of Row, Row, Row Your Boat to recall both dreams and childhood on the other.

Another poet read in the spoken word style, and the other three writers read sections from longer works of fiction or short stories, all of which were about the Filipino/Filipina American experience. I've been wanting to check this book out, so you all should take a look with me!

Here's a link to the website again: http://walanghiyaanthology.com/home

[identity profile] stephenhongsohn.livejournal.com
A Brief Review of Amy Tan’s Saving Fish From Drowning

As part of my relief from school and just to get my system re-charged, I’ve been catching up on books I’ve been meaning to read. First up on my list for this summer has been Amy Tan’s latest novel, Saving Fish From Drowning. I’ve always appreciated Tan simply based on the kind of exposure she has given other American writers of Asian descent, especially through the commercial success of her creative publications. Saving Fish From Drowning is especially interesting in terms of Tan’s publication history because it is the one novel to seriously deviate from the strong feminist and Chinese transnational topographies that has been a hallmark of her work. This statement isn’t to say that Saving Fish From Drowning completely deviates, as the protagonist and narrator, Bibi Chen, is one who herself has had to face a very problematic relationship to her Chinese stepmother. Nevertheless, Bibi deigns not to situate her own experiences per se, as the ones faced by a group of tourists who travel to Burma. I do not want to give away too much about the story, except to say that Bibi is a very winning and funny protagonist, so much so that I tended to care more about her narration and her character more than any of the characters she tells us about. Part of the perilousness of this novel is that it is so multifocal; it is a picaresque-type work, it is a satire, it is a comic novel, it is partly social realist, and it certainly is political. The novel clocks in at over 400 pages and because it is difficult to sustain narrative dynamism as Bibi tells us the various adventures of this group of tourists, we begin to lose our ways at times. Only toward the end, where it is clear there is an extensive treatise and discourse concerning media representations, does the novel bring its more disparate strands back together.

Buy the Book Here:

[identity profile] stephenhongsohn.livejournal.com
A Review of Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010).

Miguel Syjuco’s Ilustrado is the novel made for re-reading. There are continual twists and turns and questions about the nature of fiction writing that immediately attune one to the constructed nature of the textual landscape. Indeed, Ilustrado is a metafiction, as it involves a character by the name of Miguel, a writer living in New York, who is researching the life of a Filipino expatriate writer named Crispin Salvador. At the beginning of the novel, the readers discover that Crispin has died under mysterious circumstances. Miguel, having been acquainted with and impressed by Salvador’s work and life, goes about trying to find out what might have happened to Salvador, especially as he embarks on writing Salvador’s life story. The novel is written with this main storyline, but scattered throughout are excerpts from Salvador’s many creative writings, both fictional and nonfictional in scope. They are also various interviews and blog excerpts that continually provide more context and more complexity to Crispin Salvador. The other major narrative involves Miguel’s own life, one marked by the tragic and premature death of both his mother and father. Miguel and his many siblings are raised by his grandparents. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the novel takes us to the Philippines where Miguel is both haunted by the tensions that have disintegrated his family and looks to discovering more about his esteemed Crispin Salvador.
The title of Miguel’s novel, Ilustrado, comes from the Filipino elite that traveled to Europe in the late 19th century in order to receive an education. In this regard, the “enlightened ones” speaks to the complicated ways in which the colonial subject could continue to be indoctrinated by the cultural capital devised out of the imperial enterprise. Nevertheless, the education that the ilustrados received also helped foment the revolutionary ideals espoused by those such as Jose Rizal. In this way, the novel is distinctly postcolonial in character inasmuch as it might be called Asian American. Following Crispin’s life through the eyes of Miguel’s work and by other creative excerpts, the novel does track an impressive array of historical changes that have typified the Philippines in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Crispin, having been raised in affluence, must come to terms with his class background and finds himself using writing as a venue to share his political sentiments. The hope for the venue of writing as a direct instigator of political activism is a vexed issue throughout the novel and we can see that Syjuco is tarrying with the complex ways in which representation, referent, and social protest collide. Miguel, too, comes from a clearly privileged background and all throughout the novel we see the ways in which class stratification details the Manila landscape that becomes a sort of “third” character.
Like the recently reviewed, A Thread of Sky, Syjuco excels at painting a picture of modern metropolitan Manila in all of its intricacies and these urbanscapes become the terrain upon which power and difference can be situated. As the plot moves directly into the homes and lives of individual characters, we see, for instance, the way in which the domestic workers are subordinated and often times flagrantly abused. In the clubscapes, individuals worry about the latest fashions and where to score a round of drugs. The profligacy of the Manila elite is meant to de-stabilize any deterministic trajectory of the country’s progressivism. In addition, the political ruling class is also portrayed as corrupt and ineffectual. In this general space of guarded pessimism, the novel begins to turn inward with a major shift in the conclusion that queries the entire nature of the narrative trajectory itself. It begs the question about the construction of the modern Filipino/ American subject and he or she has come to exist at hazy boundary between fantasy and reality.
Ilustrado is a consummately entertaining book, one that will have you immediately re-reading, spending more time on the many different threads that hold the book together.

Buy the Book Here:

[identity profile] stephenhongsohn.livejournal.com
A Review of Kathryn Ma’s All That Work and Still No Boys (University of Iowa Press, 2009).

Kathryn Ma’s All That Work and Still No Boys (winner of the Iowa Award for Short Fiction) heralds the exciting debut of a gifted short story writer. This collection is most reminiscent of the work of Frances Hwang’s Transparency where certain stories are centered in the Chinese American and Chinese immigrant experience and where others are not discernably so. The title clearly refers to the long tradition in East Asian cultures of favoring the birth of male children over females. The title story that opens the collection ruminates on the complications of such a phenomenon when a Chinese immigrant mother requires a kidney transplant and out of her five children, her one son is the only one who is a serviceable match. Unfortunately for all involved, the mother does not want to take the kidney from her son and instead wishes that it would be taken from her eldest daughter, Barbara. Indeed, the one son, Lawrence was only conceived, seemingly miraculously, after the mother had been told she would not likely bear more children. In this regard, Lawrence’s “favor” is one that is placed in contradistinction to the treatment of the other four daughters, who while not ignored, are not necessarily bestowed with such honor. Such domestic squabbles and conflicts are the foundation to collection and the readers are treated to a variety of quirky characters. If there is a tonality to the collection, one might call it “tragicomic.” For instance, in “The Scottish Play,” two “rival” grandmothers duke it out over the bragging rights of the grandchild. While one, a granddaughter, Anna, gains the lead in the school play, another a grandson, successfully completes training as a NAVY Seal. When Anna’s grandmother begins to harbor ill will toward the other grandmother over bragging rights, she sets upon her by implanting a seed of doubt that acts as a harbinger for the story’s subtly tragic ending. Another standout story, “What I know Now,” perfectly captures the awkward personal growth phase experienced by many undergraduate students as they, often for the first time, adjust to life away from home. In this particular case, a young woman navigates the treacherous and nebulous waters of college dating and romance, where even tutoring for a young boy comes with it ominous possibilities. Perhaps my favorite story is Ma’s second, which is aptly titled as “Second Child,” in which a Chinese tour guide, Daisy, operates as a translator for families on “heritage tours” for transracial adoptees. Tension arises when Daisy realizes that she may have overstepped her boundaries by sharing too much of her personal feelings with the biological child of one of the families, a young and astute observer named Sam. When he begins to show up late or even missing from allotted meet-up times for the group tours, Daisy slowly realizes that such disobediences are stemming from the very sensitive information that she shared with him. There is much to praise about Ma’s collection, one only wishes that certain stories could have been developed more. For instance, “The Long Way Home” and “Dougie” both explore family dysfunctionality but do not find as sure footing as stories like “The Scottish Play” or “Second Child.” Indeed, such stories immediately suggest that Ma’s narrative skills will also find a fertile ground in the novel or novella form, where characters and plotlines can be extended out. Nevertheless, the collection is assured in its “voice” and dynamic its depictions—certainly, one that could excerpted or adopted for courses.

Buy the Book Here:

[identity profile] stephenhongsohn.livejournal.com
 A Review of Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian 100% Hapa (Chronicle Books, 2006).


Kip Fulbeck’s Part Asian 100% Hapa is really a visual treatise on the complication of being a mixed-race Asian American in the contemporary moment.  In the sprightly introduction, Fulbeck writes, “Our country is lazy.  And I’m not talking about obesity levels.  I’m talking ‘whatever.’  We’re uncomfortable with people who don’t fit neatly into boxes because when they don’t do so, it requires effort on our part.  It’s easier to keep things uncomplicated, trouble free.  We ask people how they’re doing when most of the time we don’t really want to know” (12).  This statement addresses the state of people’s tragically short-sided conceptions of race, where individuals who do not conform to a particular phenotype therefore become “problems” and difficult to approach.  In this regard, the mixed-race Asian American must face these daily challenges, often where fitting into a prescribed “culture” does not come so easily or automatically.  As Fulbeck continues on his autobiographical polemic, “What are you?  And we know we can’t answer it any more than we can choose one body part over another.  We love the question.  We hate the question.  And we know many times people aren’t satisfied with our answers” (13).  Fulbeck seems to suggest that such a schizophrenic existence is at the core of many hapas’ experiences.  In this regard, Fulbeck’s project to photograph individuals of varing racial and ethnic “mixtures” serves really as a way to embrace those that defy boundaries and expected “norms.” 


What is perhaps most fascinating about the book is how it plays out in some voyeurstic fashion.  As the introduction gives way to Sean Lennon’s forward and then to a gallery of many face shots, the experience is much connected to the preconceived notions of the viewers.  Fulbeck makes sure to include alongside each picture another page where the individual who was photographed has a chance to describe himself or herself in his/her own words.  Above these “self-identifying” statements, Fulbeck breaks down each individual’s racial/ethnic backgrounds.  By giving us these various informational blocks alongside the face portraits, one necessarily has to query the notion that there is any norm from which to situate the mixed-race Asian American “appearance.”  In this multiplicity, Fulbeck is undermining any inherent essence to the hapa phenotype and indeed exposing the readers’ desire to decode “race” or “ethnicity” in any particular way.  The photographs themselves are quite stunning in their unadornment.  Besides the strong lighting and direct countenances of all the subjects, they were also instructed to look as if they were not wearing any shirts or blouses (or tops), exposing as much skin surface as possible in the face portraits.  I am including some of the portraits that came with the publicity kit so you can get a sense of those photos, but recall again, that there is some typescript information that comes with the photos.  The sequencing is not made clear to the viewer, but one continues if only to continually observe the vast array of countenances offered here and we know then in this diverse assemblage that Fulbeck has demonstrated how there is “no right answer” to the question of “who are you,” only many, many complicated ones.  If there is one connecting element in all the photos, it is that very few are visibly smiling and most do not show any teeth at any point, so we know that this isn’t some sort of glamour photo shoot.  The production values of the book are first rate and it comes to mind that this book and Todd Shimoda’s Oh! do show us a very marked attention to aesthetic qualities that I haven’t quite wrapped my head around enough when thinking about the marketing and final presentation of “cultural productions.” 


As I have been thinking more and more about the importance of visual culture in the arena of Asian American literary production, I can’t help but think that this would of course be yet another indispensable addition to a course designed to explore how visuality and “text” intertwine. 

Buy the Book Here:



[identity profile] stephenhongsohn.livejournal.com
 A Review of Jenny Boully’s [One Love Affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2006). 


Jenny Boully’s [one love affair]* is an interesting amalgam of many different genres, blending together poetry, prose, and experimentalism together to engage a various meditations on love and loss of that love.  My first impression of this deceptively slim book comes from its interesting cover art in which a crack pipe is positioned over what seems to be a rainbow palletted sponge painting or water-color art pastiche of plants that shows a prismatic array including lavender, purple, blue, sky blue, hunter green, yellow green, yellow orange, red-orange, red.  The mix of impressionistically configured foliage as background to the crackpipe serves as an interesting metaphor for the ways in which affect and desire can warp the sense of one’s reality.  As such [one love affair]* is a highly fragmented text, with three larger prose poetic arcs, but even within this three arcs, they break down further into sets of stream-of-consciousness images that together do begin to mimic this sense of surrealistic disorientation found in the ruins of lost love.  The * denotes the use of footnotes that will appear alongside the various prose-poem sequences.  It is told that the lyric-narrative that emerges in [one love affair]* is at least and in part inspired by a number of different creative writers that the narrator-poetic speaker has read; this list includes Marguerite Duras, Carole Maso, Thomas Bernhard, among others.  The use of footnotes follows alongside Boully’s formalistic and experimental impulses that characterize her larger creative art and her two other major publications; we are reminded that there are always other side conversations, other thoughts that follow us as both read and write.  Characteristic of Boully’s work here is a lyric-sequence like the one below:


“The drive away from New York happened alongside a drizzle, a gray rain, the encumbered night.  You explained how you would someday explain your sickness; however, I already knew and already loved you in spite of it.  (In spite of it all, I did, I do.)  Along the highway, shrubbery that appeared like reeds, cattails and pussy willows; even in the dark, hidden things” (29).


I place that fragment alongside the one below:


 “The entire catastrophe of being a poet is that, after the fact, everything will be too eerily coincidental: the fact that the fire could not and would not light; the fact that the kindling flamed fast only to extinguish itself; the fact that the bed sheets were two sizes too small; the suggestion the doves gave of not being able to roost, of having to move on again” (54). 


There always is the sense of mourning in this text and it comes really to a pinnacle point with the admittance that “everything will be too eerily incidental” for the poet, who will seemingly find meaning in linking external references together.  In looking back at the early block, the rain, the drizzle, alongside the strange sense that more things can be hidden than those sheltered by the darkness.  Foreboding and foreshadowing appear in these moments, the retrospection. 


The advent of independent press has been an amazing boon for writers of all different backgrounds and inspirations.  Since my own interest has been in Asian American literature and given the recent questions about how to define the field, Boully’s work provides an interesting example of a text that moves far beyond the “cultural nationalist” foundations that helped define certain boundary points of the field.  While the text doesn’t promote some a "radical" activist politic, the terrain being offered is one in which the American writer of Asian descent doesn’t necessarily have to rehearse a particular racialized trope in representation.  To a certain extent, Boully’s meditations do include references to “Oriental” poetic forms, that of the renga and haiku, but it would be difficult to parse out Boully’s ethnic background from the content provided.  One of my recent forays was to read the excellent collection on Asian Canadian writing; when thinking about going beyond “autoethnography,” Boully’s one love affair brings us into constellation with various images and moments which are so particular as to evoke the impossibility of this desire as being anything other than imagined for one couple and yet, its sentiment, its pathos is universal.  

Buy the Book Here:


[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com

Pamela: A Novel is Pamela Lu’s take on Asian American identity in the age of “poststructural” uncertainties; the book possesses an engaging darkly comic narrative voice. Indeed, she clearly pokes fun at lofty theoretical discourse that is the mainstay of academia (especially in the humanities and social sciences), while still investigating the problematic ways in which late-capitalist subjects attempt to find meaning in an increasingly chaotic landscape. Scholars and academics will really appreciate this book simply because they are one of its intended audiences, as she employs promiscuous terms such as diaspora and displacement as a way to interrogate various characters’ obsession with high theory as it clashes with everyday life and pop culture. Because my current work is so wound up in critical studies engaging the aftermath of 9/11, I wondered about how to approach the clearly solipsistic characters and their often randomly apolitical musings about love and life. All characters are only notated through initials (for instance, the narrator’s friends are called, C, L, R, etc) , but their individual identities become difficult to parse out because Lu employ’s a fierce stream of consciousness technique that never allows to reader to fall into a lengthy narrative trajectory. A characteristic passage appears here: “So we found it natural, if not imperative, to be assaulted and overwhelmed by memories which were not our own but which we nevertheless carried as though they had actually happened to us. In this sense, the history of our lives was always the history of someone else. We were forever displacing ourselves in the chain of events without knowing who exactly was doing the displacing, and our lifetime goal, if we desired success in the conventional sense, consisted not in getting to know ourselves, but in getting to know ourselves less” (33). While this statement seems interesting, what Lu does as a manner of course throughout the novel is to leave such statements primarily abstract. She does not provide that which perhaps the conventional reader might want, which is an example by which she can investigate this claim on memory, history, and displacement. As such, I don’t have many points at which I can say, such and such happened; I only have fragments and impressions (eg of the section set in Orange County at the “Anti-Mall,” a location I have eaten at myself!) and these tiny fragments and impressions are perhaps what Lu intends.
[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com
A Review of the Queens of K-Town by Angela Mi Young Hur

Basically, when I get home these nights, I feel too tired to do anything but read something not academically related. I certainly haven’t been able to write, but for some reason, I have reading addiction that keeps me up long past when I should be going to bed, causing me to have less sleep than I need and then I wake up even more tired the next day, with even less possibility that I will get any research or academic reading done. Oh, the vicious cycle within which I seem to put myself!

Brief Review This-A-Way )
[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com
Tonight, I did some more pleasure reading. I’ve been feeling generally unmotivated all things work related; research in particular has been placed in a perpetual limbo. To avoid this no man’s land, I re-read When the Rainbow Goddess Wept by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard. I’ve been meaning to pick this novel up again since I’m going to teach it this winter in my course on geography, time, and trauma in Asian American literature, but I just didn’t have the stomach to read something about war.

A Review of Cecilia Manguerra Brainard’s When the Rainbow Goddess Wept )
[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com

The first of Ha Jin’s writing to be primarily set in the United States, A Free Life is a meandering, yet nevertheless beautifully written novel, expounding upon and nuancing the prototypical Asian American immigrant narrative. In the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Wu family (comprised of Nan Wu, the father, Pinging Wu, the mother, and Taotao, the son) must forge a new life in the United States. After Nan drops out of graduate school in political science at Brandeis University, the family must work harder than ever to ensure a successful future. The novel takes us from suburbs of Boston, to New York City, to Atlanta, and in the later stages of the text, back to China. In the meantime, Ha Jin aims to clarify some of the nuances in the Chinese diasporic community by linking some of the difficulties that the Wu family faces directly because of their Mandarin-speaking background. My biggest critique of the novel is that it is just too long, and clocking in at a morbidly obese 660 pages, A Free Life could have certainly used a harsh editor. The uneven plot does little to carry the reader along and really, I believe, it is the strength of Ha Jin’s writing style that lovingly develops and carries what meager momentum there often is for the Wu family. For those that have read some Asian American literature, the narrative itself will ultimately overly familiar, for the “American Dream” looms large as a unifying trope in numerous cultural productions and texts. Why it is that we should deign to spend it with this seemingly mundane family does beg the particular question about whether or not Jin aimed to consider this from the perspective of U.S “minority” literatures? Indeed, Nan Wu, an aspiring poet and writer, does at one point, come upon the names Gish Jen and Maxine Hong Kingston, but later rather emulates other more “canonical” poets. Given the immigrant suffering and angst so prevalent in Jen and Kingston’s work, perhaps Nan Wu would have found a different perspective from which to understand, challenge, and critique his own life’s path. Toward the concluding pages of the text, Nan is finally sending out poems for publication: “He mailed out another batch of poems to a small journal called Yellow Leaves, which he had noticed published some Asian American authors” (591). The reader never discovers if his poetic aspirations are successful, only left with an epilogue of Nan’s poems.
[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com
I just wanted to begin drawing up a list of some of the big names publishing novels, poetry collections, short story collections, or dramas this upcoming year. Obviously, it's going to a busy and fun year!

Susan Choi's A Person of Interest
Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered
Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth
Ha Jin's Free Life
Fae Myenne Ng's Steer Toward Rock
Don Lee's Wrack and Ruin (thanks for the tip [livejournal.com profile] pylduck
Li-Young Lee's Behind My Eyes
Chay Yew's edited play anthology, Version 3.0: Contemporary Asian American Plays

These books are all cued up and ready to go in my amazon.com book cart hehe. I'm very excited!

I'll update this list as people let me know other works that are coming out!
[identity profile] thebowlerhat.livejournal.com

I'm not sure if anyone already posted about Bich Minh Nguyen's memoir, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, but I thought I'd throw it out there. I was expecting something decent or less, along the lines of Katy Robinson's A Single Square Picture or some other Asian American memoirs out there on the bookshelves, but I was pleasantly surprised. Stealing Buddha's Dinner is a brilliant work of creative nonfiction, many of the chapters able to stand alone as great pieces. Nguyen names each chapter as some type of food that has significant emotional meaning in her life and weaves the theme throughout the chapter without it seeming tiresome, overdone, or trite. Bich and her sister, father, grandmother, and two uncles were Vietnamese refugees in 1975. She explores issues of immigration, refugee status, cultural clashes, family, and language through food and what food has represented in her life growing up in Western Michigan. Having grown up in the same area, I found I could relate to many of her views of growing up Asian in the Grand Rapids area, even a decade later. I definitely recommend it.
[identity profile] sa-am.livejournal.com
Let's be clear: any label you give to a literature is destined to fail.

Oh, you say that's American Literature? Well, what's so American about it? Can you define what American literature is please? Why is it that people who work on race have to constantly DEFINE what it is they are doing? Is it out of some sort of backwards institutional hierarchy?

So, I'm having now to justify the nature of what Asian American literature is, if it is anything.


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A Veritable Literary Feast

April 2019

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