The Deathly Embrace: Orientalism and Asian American Identity

By Sheng-Mei Ma | Go to book overview

Epilogue

I fully understand the contentiousness of my thesis — the deathly embrace of Orientalism and Asian American identity — and that it is likely to elicit strong reactions. But arguing in moderation is simply out of the question if one is to engage in a deconstructing of ethnic identity, as I point out in the Introduction. It is hoped that passion will not be mistaken for vitriol.

A possible criticism of this book is that I focus exclusively on what I term the “discursive straitjacket” of Orientalism. I have pointed to antiOrientalist texts by Milton Murayama, Louis Chu, Wayne Wang, and many Nisei writers, but I have made it very clear that they “belong to a different book, ” not one titled The Deathly Embrace. To chide me for failing to offer an alternative out of what I call the “Orientalist net” is like chiding Kafka for not restoring the beetle back to a human being. If some readers feel trapped by my book, I should say that it is far more desirable to face up to a potential malaise plaguing America, in particular Asian America, than to pretend that all is well. Ill tidings about one's self tend to be met with, at first, denial. Let the sharing of this book be a collective purge of neurosis in order to reach a new level of ethnic consciousness. After all, racial healing must begin with a remembrance of the nightmarish trauma. To ensure recovery, one ought to poke the scab to see if pus oozes out.

If I were to integrate “alternatives” — materials utterly incompatible with my subject — this might be a more agreeable book, especially to those readers who might personally identify with the topic. But the unique

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