The Asian Pacific Heritage: A Companion to Literature and the Arts

Article excerpt

In this large volume of essays, general editor George J. Leonard aims to produce a "tool kit" for the multicultural classroom that will "unlock the greatest number of (Asian-Pacific American-APA) authors and artists" (xiv) for students and teachers. In many ways he hits the mark. Readers who once skipped over the Chinese phrases in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club can now find them explained in Molly H. Isham's "Reader's Guide" to the novel. Those who want to know the meaning of "no-no boys" or "FOBs," or "Mestizos" or the date when the "Queue Ordinance" was passed can find them in the book's "Cultural Lexicon and Chronology."

The section on literature is the most successful of the six parts. It features articles on canons, traditions, and developments as well as biographies of some of the important practitioners (though some, like Sui Sin Far, are glaringly absent). A fine example of how this volume may "unlock" APA works for students is Mary Scott's article on The Journey to the West, which opens up texts like Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey.

The book's organization is problematical. For example a chapter on the important model minority myth is not only underdeveloped (only two pages long!) in its neglect of current trends that place Asian Americans as intermediaries to emerging Asian markets but is also oddly placed with long chapters on pinyin, Asian names, and ideograms. Eight chapters are about food (including a "list" of Filipino dishes that does nothing to explain their cultural significance), while the important story of Mu Lan is relegated to the lexicon glossary (strangely, a seven-page entry in a glossary of mostly three-sentence entries! …