Asian American Identity in Literature: Overview Analysis


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Although East Asia has been subjected to the challenges and influences of Western civilization, including pressures of modernization and of capitalism, it did not succumb, as did other regions of Asia, to the colonization efforts of the West. Contacts between East Asia and the West resulted, however, in political, economic, military, and ideological conditions that have contributed to mass emigration, through displacement and recruitment, from China, Japan, and Korea.

The United States of America, emerging as a world power in the late nineteenth century and as an increasingly dominant world power in the twentieth, became one of the main destinations of East Asian emigrants. This historical pattern has resulted in an impressive literature. Asian immigration has followed a pattern of labor shortages followed by legal restrictions. Recruited as laborers during different periods (the Chinese, 1850-1882; the Japanese, 1885-1924; the Koreans, 1903-1905), East Asians often came first to work in the fields of Hawaii or in the western areas of the United States mainland. Many of the Hawaiian Asians later moved to the mainland, but as a result of Asian immigration, Hawaii in the 1990 census was the only state of the union where Asian Americans constituted the majority of the population. Until after World War II, Asian Americans were subjected to many discriminatory practices and laws. Their property rights and civil rights were often limited or violated, and...

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Anthologies of Asian American literature, which feature a wide perspective on the Asian American experience, include Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (1974), Asian-American Authors (1976), Breaking Silence: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets (1983), Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and About Asian American Women (1989), and Home to Stay: Asian-American Women’s Fiction (1990).


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Chan, Sucheng. Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Cheung, King-Kok, and Stan Yogi. Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Modern Language Association, 1988.

Chin, Frank, et al., eds. Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974.

Chin, Frank, et al., eds. The Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature. New York: Meridian, 1991.

Kim, Elaine H. “Asian American Literature.” In Columbia Literary History of the United States, edited by Emory Elliott et al. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Kim, Elaine H. Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982.

Kim, Elaine H., and Yu Eui-Young, eds. East to America: Korean American Life Stories. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Lim, Shirley Geok-lin. “Twelve Asian American Writers: In Search of Self-Definition.” In Redefining American Literary History, edited by A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff and Jerry W. Ward, Jr. New York: Modern Language Association, 1990.

Lim, Shirley Geok-lin, and Amy Ling, eds. Reading the Literatures of Asian America. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

Lye, Colleen. America’s Asia: Racial Form and American Literature, 1882-1945. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans. New York: Penguin Books, 1989.

White-Parks, Annette, et al., eds. A Gathering of Voices on the Asian American Experience. Fort Atkinson, Wis.: Highsmith Press, 1994.

Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia. Reading Asian American Literature from Necessity to Extravagance. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.