Jessica Hagedorn Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Jessica Hagedorn has published the novels Dogeaters (1990), which was nominated for a National Book Award and translated into several languages, and The Gangster of Love (1996), and several collections containing short fiction and poetry: Dangerous Music (1975), Pet Food and Tropical Apparitions (1981), and Danger and Beauty (1993). Her poetry has been anthologized in a number of collections and published in several literary journals. In addition, she has published several short essays and is the editor of Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction (1993). Hagedorn’s nonfiction articles, interviews, and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, The Nation, and USA Weekend. In collaboration with photojournalist Marissa Roth, Hagedorn published Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines (1999). She wrote the screenplay for Fresh Kill (1994), an independent film directed and produced by Shu Lea Cheang. Other work with Cheang includes Color Schemes (1989) and Those Fluttering Objects of Desire (1992), both of which were screened at the Whitney Museum. Hagedorn also collaborated with John Woo on The Pink Palace (2000), a set of animated short films for Oxygen’s X-Chromosome series.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Jessica Hagedorn’s Pet Food and Tropical Apparitions, a multigenre novella, won the American Book Award in 1981, the year of the book’s publication. Hagedorn received her first Macdowell Colony Fellowship in 1985, her second in 1986. Her third Macdowell fellowship, in 1988, supported her work on Dogeaters. In 1990, Dogeaters was awarded the American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation and was a finalist in the fiction category for the National Book Award that same year. In 1994, Hagedorn was awarded a Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award, and in 1995, she received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship. In 1996, her second novel, Gangster of Love, was nominated for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize. Hagedorn held a Sundance Theatre Lab Fellowship in 1997 and a National Endowment for the Arts-Theatre Communications Group (NEA-TCG) Theatre Residency Fellowship in 1998.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Jessica Hagedorn’s literary reputation rests primarily on her long fiction, she has written poetry, plays, and short fiction and has done editorial work. She also has written review essays and film scripts. Her theater work includes the plays Chiquita Banana (pb. 1972), Mango Tango (pr. 1978), Tenement Lover: no palm trees/in new york city (pr. 1981), Holy Food (staged in 1988; pr. 1989 as a radio play), Dogeaters (pr. 1998; based on her novel), and Fe in the Desert (pr. 2007). Her collaborations include Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon (pr. 1977; with Thulani Davis and Ntozake Shange), Teenytown (pr. 1990; with Laurie Carlos and Robbie McCauley), and Airport Music (pr. 1994; with Han Ong). She wrote the screenplay for the Shu Lea Cheang film Fresh Kill (1994), and with John Woo she created the animated television series The Pink Palace (2000).

Hagedorn’s literary production includes collections of poems and short fiction: Dangerous Music (1975), Pet Food and Tropical Apparitions (1981), and Danger and Beauty (1993). Two of her published works are anthologies: Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction (1993) and Charlie Chan Is Dead II: At Home in the World—An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction. Two other works are collaborations: a book of poetry, Visions of a Daughter, Foretold (1994), with her daughter Paloma Hagedorn Woo, and a pictorial work, Burning Heart: A Portrait of the Philippines (1999), with photographs by Marissa Roth.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Jessica Hagedorn won an American Book Award for Pet Food and Tropical Apparitions (1981) and a Before Columbus Foundation Award (1983), and she was nominated for a National Book Award in 1991 for Dogeaters. She earned MacDowell Colony Fellowships in 1985, 1986, and 1988, and she was nominated for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize for The Gangster of Love (1996). She also earned a Lucille Lortel Playwrights’ Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fiction Fellowship, a Kesserling Prize Honorable Mention, a National Education Association-Theatre Communications Group Playwriting Residency Fellowship, and fellowships with the Sundance Playwrights’ Lab and Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab. Her first single-author play, Mango Tango, was produced by the renowned Shakespearean director Joseph Papp.

Poet Kenneth Rexroth was her mentor, and he edited and wrote the introduction to a book that included her early poems, Four Young Women: Poems (1973), by Hagedorn, Alice Karle, Barbara Szerlip, and Carol Tinker. The significance of Hagedorn’s body of work is reflected, in part, by the number of poems, short fiction, and plays she has published in anthologies, including Third World Women (1972), Calafia: The California Poetry (1979), Networks: An Anthology of San Francisco Bay Area Women Poets (1979), The Forbidden Stitch: An Asian American Women’s Anthology (1989), Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women (1991), Returning a Borrowed Tongue: Poems by Filipino and Filipino American Writers (1995), and Tokens? The NYC Asian American Experience on Stage (1999).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Ancheta, Shirley. Review of Danger and Beauty, by Jessica Hagedorn. Amerasia Journal 20, no. 1 (1994). Indispensable.

Bloom, Harold. “Jessica Hagedorn.” In Asian American Writers, edited by Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1997. A very brief biographical essay, covering the highlights of Hagedorn’s life and career, introduces a sampling of critical extracts, most of which are disquisitions on Dogeaters, although one or two address Hagedorn’s poetry. In one extract, Hagedorn herself writes about Tenement Lover and its place in Asian American writing.

Casper, Leonard. “Bangugot and the Philippine Dream in Hagedorn.” Pilipinas 15 (1990). Particularly valuable discussion.

Casper, Leonard. “Four Filipina Writers: Recultivating Eden.” Amerasia Journal 24, no. 3 (1998). Hagedorn is one of four writers profiled; includes biographical information and an assessment of her work.

Davidson, Cathy N., et al., eds. The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A succinct, yet encyclopedic, article.

De Manuel, Maria Teresa. “Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters: A Feminist Reading.” Likha 12, no. 2 (1990/1991). Particularly...

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