Shan Qiang He
Chinese-American immigrant literature can be defined as literature by or about Chinese immigrants in America. The word "immigrant" may cause some controversy, for most of the literary works in this field are written by native-born Americans of Chinese descent, while "Chinese immigrant literature" usually refers to the works written by Chinese immigrants in Chinese. However, since the theme of immigration and cultural difference is prominent in many works written in English by native-born Americans of Chinese descent, a thematic term, "Chinese-American immigrant literature," is possible for focusing on the immigrant heritage in literature.
The history of Chinese immigration into the United States has been over- shadowed by official policies of racist exclusion and vigilante violence. "Chinese-American immigrant literature" covers not only the immigrant experience across different historical periods but also the aftermath of the history of racism in Asian America, which Asian Americans have been trying to claim and define as a unique space of political and cultural contestation.
The word "immigrant" has a verbal felicity. Its literal meaning, "moving into," has the connotation of "settling down" and "reaching the destination of assimilation," whereby the word itself will be put under erasure. This seems to be the manifest destiny of European immigrants in America. However, that destination of assimilation always moves a little beyond the reach of Chinese immigrants, "strangers from a different shore." 1 Reading Chinese-American immigrant literature involves a perpetual process of questioning and negotiating