Asian American Short Fiction Summary


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The period of the 1960’s and 1970’s was a significant time of social and political agitation and change in the United States. Among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans, there was a growing racial-ethnic consciousness and anger concerning the long histories of racism these groups had encountered not only in the United States but also abroad in terms of colonialism and imperialism. The birth of the Civil Rights, Black power, Third World revolutionary and nationalist movements as well as the anti-Vietnam War, Free Speech, and the women’s movements were part of this social and political turmoil. In recognizing the power of the dominant culture’s influence in the shaping of their personal and collective identity, many racial-ethnic groups began to articulate the need to construct self-defined identities.

In this milieu, Asians in the United States sought to construct and define an “Asian American” racial-ethnic, cultural, and political identity for their ethnic communities, which had been long silenced, marginalized, or appropriated within mainstream American institutions and narratives. Working in alliance with community and political activists, Asian American cultural activists challenged the cultural, ideological, and psychosocial elements that were damaging to their communities from within and without.

In fashioning a new oppositional Asian American identity, cultural nationalists deconstructed the...

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New Chinese American Short-Story Writers

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

The 1980’s and 1990’s have continued to produce a rich abundance of short-story writers and collections. The stories have an ever-increasing range of themes and are situated within more diversified social-economic, cultural, literary, historical, and geopolitical locations and traditions. Darrell Lum’s Sun: Short Stories and Drama (1980) and Pass On, No Pass Back! (1990) explore the social interactions of the multicultural communities of Hawaii in local pidgin creole. His second collection of stories was awarded the 1992 Outstanding Book Award in Fiction from the Association for Asian American Studies and the 1991 Cades Award in Literature. Shirley Geok-Lin Lim’s Two Dreams: New and Selected Stories (1997) portrays the diasporic experiences and legacies of Chinese Malaysian characters moving through vast geopolitical spaces and imaginaries. Wang Ping’s American Visa (1994) tracks the conflicted experiences of a young woman named Seaweed as she moves from a Chinese peasant village and the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution to the loneliness and uncertainties of New York.

Canadian Chinese writers and stories include Sky Lee, author of Bellydancer: Stories (1994); Evelyn Lau, author of Fresh Girls and Other Stories (1993); and Judy Fong Bates, who wrote China Dog and Other Tales from the Chinese Laundry (1997). Anthologies focusing on recent Chinese American or Chinese Canadian short stories include Paké: Writings by Chinese in Hawai’i, edited by Eric Chock and Darrell H. Y. Lum (1989), and Many-Mouthed Birds, edited by Bennett Lee and Jim Wong-Chu (1991).

New Japanese American Short-Story Writers

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

A noteworthy group of Sansei (third-generation) short-story writers emerged between the 1970’s and the 1990’s, including David Masumoto. His Silent Spring (1984) explores life and racial-ethnic relations in Del Rey, a small farming town in the San Joaquin Valley in the California of the 1930’s. Susan Nunes’s A Small Obligation and Other Stories of Hilo (1982), Sylvia Watanabe’s Talking to the Dead and Other Stories (1992), and Marie Hara’s Bananaheart and Other Stories (1994) all portray the complex and rich interactions of Asians living in the local cultures of Hawaii. R. A. Sasaki’s The Loom and Other Stories (1991) is a collection of interconnected short stories portraying lives of Sansei raised in the Richmond District of San Francisco during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sasaki’s stories show how the histories of racism and the Japanese American internment inform the individual experiences and collective interactions of the Sansei children, their parents, and contemporary communities.