Asian American Literature

(Cross-listed with ES 372)

This course introduces students to some of the most creative writers, filmmakers and artists on Asian America from the end of the 19th century to today.  Non-majors are welcome. The “reading list” consists of prose, poetry, graphic novels, films, photography, and websites. The main goal would be to read, discuss and write (this is a writing intensive class) about some excellent literature and art. This goal includes examining some of the cultural, economic, and political forces to which these talented and daring artists were speaking to, and in many ways, contesting and seeking to change. The readings offer profound and complex insights into what constitutes Asian America and America. Many of these cultural texts question and undercut limiting definitions of both labels, “Asian” and “America”.

The course will delve into crucial events such as the turbulent 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement and concepts such as immigration, settler, diaspora, transnationalism, borders, hybridity, ethnicity, race, gender, ideas that are central to a more complete appreciation of not just Asian American cultural production (such as novels and films) but also many other contemporary American literatures and cultural and social concerns.

The nationalities that initially entered the United States from Asia were the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Koreans, and Filipinos. Since 1965 (when U.S. immigration rules designed to keep out certain “races” were fully repealed), the new “Asian” immigration included the Hmong, Laotians, Vietnamese, Chinese from Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, and so on—today, there are an estimated 53 “Asian” nationalities or ethnic peoples in North America. Americans of Asian descent comprise a variety of religions, political beliefs, class, sexual orientation, cultural customs and traditions.

This course maps the differences as well as the similarities among these groups called Asian Americans. So, the class will examine:

  1. some of the common concerns as well as the diversity found in Asian American writing
  2. the ways that “local” literature by Hawai’i writers of Asian descent intersect with and depart from Asian American writing
  3. the ways that Asian American literature and identity revise, complement and otherwise engage with various “Americas”
  4. some of the important issues and goals for Asian Americans in the next 50 years

Writing Requirements:

(Writing Intensive class) include but may not be limited to:

  • A one-page response paper (single-spaced assigned every two to three weeks)
  • one essay (8-pages minimum, double-spaced)
  • oral presentation (5-10 minutes) and a written summary of your presentation
  • and a final.

Major Works to be Assigned:

  • Reading Packet of classic Asian American texts to be purchased from EMA Campus Copy (including excerpts from MAKING WAVES. AN ANTHOLOGY OF WRITINGS BY AND ABOUT ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN; OUR FEET WALK THE SKY: WOMEN OF THE SOUTH ASIAN DIASPORA; CHARLIE CHAN IS DEAD II)
  • Carlos Bulosan, AMERICA IS IN THE HEART (selection)
  • Karen Tei Yamashita, I HOTEL (multi-genre narrative)
  • Theresa Cha, DICTEE (experimental fiction)
  • Shaun Tan, THE ARRIVAL (graphic novel)
  • Joy Kogawa, OBASAN; Maxine Hong Kingston, WOMAN WARRIOR
  • Milton Murayama, ALL I ASKING FOR IS MY BODY
  • Frank Chin, et al. THE BIG AIIIEEEEE! (selection)
  • Quang Bao and Yanagihara, TAKE OUT: QUEER WRITING FROM ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICA (selection)
  • Barbara Jane Reyes, POETA EN SAN FRANCISCO (poetry)
  • Maya Lin, WHAT IS MISSING (cyberspace)
  • CHAN IS MISSING (film)

Books ordered through Revolution Books, Pucks Alley. Films viewed at Sinclair, Wong A/V.