Japanese-American Literature Benzi Zhang
"Immigrant," a term used frequently in the past to refer to a person who, passing a geopolitical border, leaves one society for another, has much more complex meanings today. In a sense, the crossing of a geopolitical border is the least important aspect of immigrant experience in terms of the long process of adjusting to the new society; immigration, as an important part of "American experience," is a sociocultural practice that thrives on a process of constant resignification of the established assumptions and meanings of ethnic/national identity. Today, the phrase "immigrant literature" refers not only to the writing by the actual immigrants who moved from one country to another but also to the texts of the descendants of the early immigrants. Immigrant literature-- literature both by and about immigrants--concerns not only the movement across the borders of a country but also the experience of traversing the boundaries and barriers of space, time, race, culture, language, history, and politics and the complexities and ambivalences associated with defining an (im)migrant identity between and beyond boundaries.
Japanese-American immigrant literature, with its strong ethnic characteristics, chronicles a perpetual process of interaction and negotiation between different cultural traditions. Despite their shared immigrant heritage, Japanese-American writers exhibit differing attitudes toward their immigrant experience: some favor mutual assimilation and acculturation, while others advocate cultural distinctness and separateness. The "assimilation-separation dilemma" and the problem of immigrant identity in relation to their old and new "homes" are important issues