Assimilating Asians

Gendered Strategies of Authorship in Asian America

Assimilating Asians

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: Published: March 2000

Author: Patricia P. Chu

American Studies, Asian American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

One of the central tasks of Asian American literature, argues Patricia P. Chu, has been to construct Asian American identities in the face of existing, and often contradictory, ideas about what it means to be an American. Chu examines the model of the Anglo-American bildungsroman and shows how Asian American writers have adapted it to express their troubled and unstable position in the United States. By aligning themselves with U.S. democratic ideals while also questioning the historical realities of exclusion, internment, and discrimination, Asian American authors, contends Chu, do two kinds of ideological work: they claim Americanness for Asian Americans, and they create accounts of Asian ethnicity that deploy their specific cultures and histories to challenge established notions of Americanness.
Chu further demonstrates that Asian American male and female writers engage different strategies in the struggle to adapt, reflecting their particular, gender-based relationships to immigration, work, and cultural representation. While offering fresh perspectives on the well-known writings—both fiction and memoir—of Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Bharati Mukherjee, Frank Chin, and David Mura, Assimilating Asians also provides new insight into the work of less recognized but nevertheless important writers like Carlos Bulosan, Edith Eaton, Younghill Kang, Milton Murayama, and John Okada. As she explores this expansive range of texts—published over the course of the last century by authors of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian origin or descent—Chu is able to illuminate her argument by linking it to key historical and cultural events.
Assimilating Asians makes an important contribution to the fields of Asian American, American, and women’s studies. Scholars of Asian American literature and culture, as well as of ethnicity and assimilation, will find particular interest and value in this book.


“[Assimilating Asians] is very useful as a history of authorship and gendering strategies in Asian American literature and as a critical companion to readings of Chin, Kingston, Tan, Bulosan, Eaton, and others . . . . [T]imely.” — Sarah M. Rudd, Western American Literature

“[T]he first major study to approach . . . the issue of the gendered nature of ethnic literary appeal and the resentment of Asian American male writers toward Asian American women . . . in a formally sustained way, eschewing realist expectations of the minority text in favor of an analysis that, at its best, understands the political to adhere in the relationship between the generic constraints of representation and the social context that supplies the materials for narrative. Emphasis on the powers of genre, rather than the political virtue of the author, facilitates Chu’s generous and nuanced attitude toward all the texts she treats . . . .” — Colleen Lye , American Literature

“Chu’s careful attention to both the racial and gendered aspects of Asian American literary production contributes to her success in illuminating the significance of how assimilation works as a literary process as well as a social one. Her readings are keen and by showing us what it means to write as assimilating subjects, Chu productively points our critical attention to what it might mean when Asian Americans will write as assimilated subjects. Chu’s incisive close analysis and her emphasis on the important connections between gender and genre make Assimilating Asians a very welcome contribution to the field of Asian American literary studies.” — Tina Chen, Journal of Asian American Studies

“Chu’s specialized approach is essential to a fuller understanding of a specific literature like Asian American literature. Chu captures and explicates the complex negotiation between an ethic community and the notion of national identity. . . .” — Jeffrey F. L. Partridge , Studies in the Novel

"[An] insightful and original book. . . .With impressive nuance and insight, Chu brings together the discussion of politics and the analysis of poetics and form. While the authors she discusses in depth are those who have attained canonical status in Asian American literature, one can easily see the applicability of her arguments to works by other writers. Combining close textual analysis with solidly grounded history, Chu's study makes a valuable contribution not only to Asian American literary criticism but also to American literary history in general." — Mari Yoshihara , American Studies

"[Chu] offers nuanced readings of this range of texts situating them within a broader field of the American bildungsroman. Chu has produced a fine book that will serve as a useful introduction to Asian American literature for the uninitiated and as a critical text for those examining issues of identity." — Ian Gordon , Australasian Journal of American Studies

“Bringing fresh perspectives to much-discussed work, Assimilating Asians is a fine book.” — Elaine Kim, University of California, Berkeley

“Chu brings social theory and literary analysis together with smart and elegant readings. Hers is one of the first works of Asian American literary criticism to foreground the gendered aspects of narratives of assimilation.” — Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Patricia P. Chu is Associate Professor of English at George Washington University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknoweldgments ix

Introduction: "A City of Words" 1

ONE. Myths of Americanization

1 America in the Heart: Political Desire in Younghill Kang, Carlos Bulosan, Milton Murayama, and John Okada 27

2 Authoring Subjects: Frank Chin and David Mura 64

3 Womens' Plots: Edith Maude Eaton and Bharati Mukherjee 90

TWO/ Constructing Chinese American Ethinicity

4 "That Was China, That Was Their Fate": Ethnicity and Agency in The Joy Luck Club 141

5 Tripmaster Monkey, Frank Chin, and the Chinese Heroic Tradition 169

CODA. "What We Should Becomoe, What We Were" 188

Notes 191

Bibliography 217

Index 299
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2465-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2430-0
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