Asian American literature

Asian American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of Asian descent. Asian American literature became a category during the 1970s but didn't see a direct impact in viewership until later in the 1970s. Perhaps the earliest references to Asian American literature appeared with David Hsin-fu Wand's Asian American Heritage: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry, published in 1974. One of the earlier pieces of Asian American literature produced by Combined Asian Resources Project (CARP) was Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974). This anthology collected staples of long-forgotten Asian American literature and criticized the lack of visibility of this literature. This anthology brought to light the necessity of visibility and criticism of Asian American literature; with visibility came recognition of new literature. Elaine Kim's seminal book of criticism, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, was published in 1982 and was the first critical book on the topic.

Since then, the field of Asian American literature and of Asian American literary criticism has grown remarkably. Numerous authors produce literary and critical work used, but defining "Asian American literature" remains a troublesome task. Most critics who have written about Asian American literature implicitly or explicitly define it as being written by Asian Americans, and usually about Asian Americans. This definition poses a number of problems that are an ongoing source of discussion for Asian American literary critics: Who is an Asian American? Is "America" only the United States, or does it include the rest of the Americas? If an Asian American writes about characters who are not Asian American, is this Asian American literature? If someone who is not Asian American writes about Asian Americans, is this Asian American literature? The fluidity of ethnicity and race can play a major role in culture and identity.

Common themes in Asian American literature include race, culture, and finding a sense of identity. While these topics can be subjective, some of the pinpointed ideas tie into gender, sexuality, age, establishing traditional and adaptive culture, and Western racism towards Asians.

Long-standing traditions have played a major role in shaping the future of Asian Americans. Some literature touches upon the effects of traditional Asian culture on Asian Americans living in a more liberal country. The mindset induced as a result of this juxtaposition of cultures creates some extreme cognitive dissonance, particularly among women of Asian descent.

Authors also touch upon the lack of visibility and criticism of Asian American literature. Asian American writers were prominent before the 1970s, but as touched upon in Aiiieeeee!, their history is lacking. One of the questions is why Asian American literature was never exposed or taken seriously. It is possible that racism played a strong role in the perception of Asian authors in the United States and Asian Americans in general, but it is safe to assume there is not one single answer.

Throughout the 1990s there was a growing amount of Asian American queer writings (Merle Woo (1941), Willyce Kim (1946), Russel Leong (1950), Kitty Tsui (1952), Dwight Okita (1958), Norman Wong (1963), Tim Liu (1965), Chay Yew (1965) and Justin Chin (1969).) These authors interrogate the intersections between gender, sexuality, race and cultural traditions. They experience fragility due to both their ethnicity and their gender, or sexual orientation, but the "fragile status of their families’ economic success in ethnically hostile Asian environments seems to me to have more to do with their emigration and compounded alienations than most of the authors acknowledge."

This page was last edited on 24 June 2017, at 17:41.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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