Drawing on a wide array of literary, historical, and theoretical sources, Rachel Lee addresses current debates on the relationship among Asian American ethnic identity, national belonging, globalization, and gender. Lee argues that scholars have traditionally placed undue emphasis on ethnic-based political commitments--whether these are construed as national or global--in their readings of Asian American texts. This has constrained the intelligibility of stories that are focused less on ethnicity than on kinship, family dynamics, eroticism, and gender roles. In response, Lee makes a case for a reconceptualized Asian American criticism that centrally features gender and sexuality.
Through a critical analysis of select literary texts--novels by Carlos Bulosan, Gish Jen, Jessica Hagedorn, and Karen Yamashita--Lee probes the specific ways in which some Asian American authors have steered around ethnic themes with alternative tales circulating around gender and sexual identity. Lee makes it clear that what has been missing from current debates has been an analysis of the complex ways in which gender mediates questions of both national belonging and international migration. From anti-miscegenation legislation in the early twentieth century to poststructuralist theories of language to Third World feminist theory to critical studies of global cultural and economic flows, The Americas of Asian American Literature takes up pressing cultural and literary questions and points to a new direction in literary criticism.
"Lee is deeply invested in and concerned with the project of Asian-American feminism and argues convincingly that it must extend its scope beyond critiques of cultural nationalism. . . . Lee thus makes a valuable contribution to many areas of discussion--postcolonial studies, diaspora studies, and studies of global feminism--when she envisions a newly invigorated Asian-American feminist literary methodology that takes into account the changing significance and role of the nation-state in the new economic internationalism. . . . Lee's argument has far-reaching implications and points to exciting new avenues of inquiry."--Grace Kyungwon Hong, Princeton University, Signs
"The Americas of Asian American Literature is a critique of ideology and an interrogation of political power arrangements as they shift in different historical contexts. Rachel Lee looks at the ideological implications of various ways of reading literature that foreground some issues and suppress others. With its richly nuanced readings of how various kinds of racialized gendering shape both writing and reading across space and time, Rachel Lee's breakthrough book enriches both Asian American cultural critique and feminist inquiry, suggesting to us how much can be gained if we more clearly understand the inseparability of representations of race, gender, class, and sexuality."--Elaine H. Kim, University of California, author of Asian American Literature
"Rachel Lee has opened an important new chapter in the study of Asian American literature. Her trans-Pacific and trans-hemispheric conception of the 'Americas' of Asian American culture, combined with her scrupulous theorizing of gender, provides a fresh, original approach to the field. In doing so, she also maps out the criticism of the future and boldly enlarges the meaning of American literature."--Eric Sundquist, Northwestern University
Table of Contents:
CHAPTER ONE Fraternal Devotions: Carlos Bulosan and the Sexual Politics of America 17
CHAPTER TWO Gish Jen and the Gendered Codes of Americanness 44
CHAPTER THREE Transversing Nationalism, Gender, and Sexuality in Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters 73
CHAPTER FOUR Global-Local Discourse and Gendered Screen Fictions in Karen Tei Yamashita's Through the Arc of the Rain Forest 106
CONCLUSION Asian American Feminist Literary Criticism on Multiple Terrains 139
APPENDIX ONE Number of Plots in Dogeaters 147
APPENDIX TWO Epigraphs and Other Quoted Material in Dogeaters 148
Works Cited 185