Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds

Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds

Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds

Racial Asymmetries: Asian American Fictional Worlds

Synopsis

Challenging the tidy links among authorial position, narrative perspective, and fictional content, Stephen Hong Sohn argues that Asian American authors have never been limited to writing about Asian American characters or contexts. Racial Asymmetries specifically examines the importance of first person narration in Asian American fiction published in the postrace era, focusing on those cultural productions in which the author's ethnoracial makeup does not directly overlap with that of the storytelling perspective. Through rigorous analysis of novels and short fiction, such as Sesshu Foster's Atomik Aztex, Sabina Murray's A Carnivore's Inquiry and Sigrid Nunez's The Last of Her Kind, Sohn reveals how the construction of narrative perspective allows the Asian American writer a flexible aesthetic canvas upon which to engage issues of oppression and inequity, power and subjectivity, and the complicated construction of racial identity. Speaking to concerns running through postcolonial studies and American literature at large, Racial Asymmetries employs an interdisciplinary approach to reveal the unbounded nature of fictional worlds. Stephen Hong Sohn is Assistant Professor of English at Stanford University. He is the co-editor of Transnational Asian American Literature: Sites and Transits.

Excerpt

Asian American literature is traditionally understood as a body of texts written in English that depicts a specific social history in which individuals of various ethnicities have faced discrimination due to perceptions and laws that designated them as aliens. Common narratives involve the troubling acculturation process of the Asian immigrant, the intergenerational ruptures between Asian immigrant parents and their more Americanized children, and the challenges of defining identity when an Asian American travels back to a land of ethnic origin.

Critics tend to further delineate Asian American literature through “maximal ideological inclusiveness” (Lye, “Introduction” 4). This “inclusiveness” appears in the way critics embrace particular cultural productions, based on factors such as ancestry, the author’s residency status, and textual content. Most of the works that have achieved canonical status tend also to depict Asian or Asian American contexts. Certainly, critics understand that American writers of Asian descent are often inspired by their personal experiences of racial oppression and racial difference in the creation of their cultural productions, both fictional and otherwise. Bounding Asian American literature in part by the writer’s ancestry leads not merely to a biologically centered notion of textual classification but to an understanding that race produces material effects on bodies, lives, and corresponding acts of creative expression. the most acclaimed texts exemplify these definitional boundaries. Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior (1975), reputed to be one of most frequently adopted books in college-level curriculums, focuses on the challenges connected . . .

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