Asian American Genre Fictions

HIST-LIT 90EH
Ellen Song
T Th 12:00-1:15 pm
There was an explosion of works by Asian American authors on the American publishing scene near the turn of the millennium, an unexpected consequence of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which brought an influx of immigrants from Asia and dramatically altered the demographic composition of the U.S. The descendants of these post-1965 immigrants comprise a diverse group of Asian American authors, and in this course, we study the many different genres and forms of contemporary Asian American fiction. Asian American literature is often associated with certain themes (inter-generational conflict in families, fraught nature of immigrant identity, etc.), but this course instead emphasizes the formal qualities of contemporary Asian American writing alongside their domestic and global historical contexts. We will consider, for example, the spy narratives of Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer; the noir style of Suki Kim’s The Interpreter, a murder mystery; “corporate novels” like Ling Ma’s Severance; or works that question the expectations placed onto racialized authors, like Nam Le’s short story “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice.” What are the aesthetic characteristics of these works? What, if any, are their political investments? In asking these questions, this course seeks to understand, from our vantage point, just what about them is “Asian American” anyway?