Author Archive

Modern Family

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I was catching up on some Modern Family episodes last week at home when my extra-sensitive Asian-stereotyping-radar went off during this episode.  For those of you who haven’t seen the show, Cam and Mitch are a couple who have adopted a Vietnamese daughter.  In this episode, Cam goes behind Mitch’s back and signs Lily (the daughter) up to be in a commercial.  Little does Cam know that the commercial is a ridiculous Asian stereotype and the producers only wanted Lily because she’s Asian.  Watch and be disgusted (while also wanting to laugh at the disgusting-ness).

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The Third and Final Continent // Yekl?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I just finished Lahiri’s “The Third and Final Continent” and during my reading of it I had begun to see a lot of similarities between it and Abraham Cahan’s short novel Yekl.  I read Yekl (as did a number of other people in this class) last spring in Professor Rigsby’s American Realism class.  To briefly sum it up, Yekl is a Jewish immigrant who has left his wife in Europe to start a new and promising life in New York City’s East Side.  He eventually becomes very accustomed to life in America; he’s found a source of income, meets some women, and even changing his name to (correct me if I’m wrong) Jake.  Eventually, however, his wife travels to America to finally be with him and his world is turned upside down.  Yekl isn’t used to her “Old Country” way of life anymore and is actually embarrassed by her presence.  He doesn’t take the time to explain to her how different life in America is and is easily frustrated if she refuses to change anything.  Eventually he divorces her because he has become so incredibly altered from his experiences in America.

Obviously the stories aren’t completely the same, but there are a large number of parallels.  In “The Third and Final Continent,” the main character has come from a foreign nation to an American city due to employment opportunities.  Though married, he travels alone in order to first establish himself before his family follows.  In both stories the man becomes very Americanized and accustomed to living in America; in the Lahiri, the man character eats cornflakes night and day while carrying around “The Student’s Guide to North America, a paperback volume that I’d bought before leaving London,” (174).  When his wife is scheduled to come live with him, the narrator witnesses an incident on the street were a small black dog attacks an Indian woman/her sari on the street one day.  He realizes that when his wife comes he must “welcome her and protect her” (190) but when she comes he isn’t quite accustomed to her presence.  He chooses to speak to her in Bengali for the first time since he’s been in America, and he critiques her sari.  The narrator had become so used to developing his own way of life in America that he doesn’t quite know how to deal with the entrance of his “Old Country” wife.

The parallels in these two stories are really interesting to me in that they highlight different eras of immigration to the United States and how they are so very similar.  Though the men in each story are at least 100 years apart from each other historically, they are both facing similar experiences in their moving to an urban American city.  The comparison of these two stories also really emphasize some of the information we were discussing earlier in the semester in regards to Angel Island v. Ellis Island; the first wave of immigration being from Europeans (Ellis Island) and the second being from Asian-Americans (Angel Island, though this isn’t necessarily relevant to the Indian-American stories by Lahiri).

Form of Dialogue

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Taking a formalistic approach to Makai, I’d like to open a discussion on what the purpose/function of the lack of true, grammatically correct dialogue is in the novel.  We hear the other characters speak in the book, but only through the narrative of Alice.  There are no direct quotes, only what Alice says they said.  What are we to make of this?

I think that Alice’s character is empowered by being given the ability to tell us what everyone around her is saying.   Being a very quiet and hesitant character, it’s interesting to see how much control she actually has as the narrator.  Also, the lack of direct quotes from the characters makes the novel seem much more like a “word of mouth” type of story, something that seems very appropriate to the Asian/Hawaiian culture being portrayed.


Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Just to go back in time a bit, and to touch base on Erika Lee again…

During my research for our Vietnamese Immigration Multimedia project I stumbled across this neat organization in the Smithsonian called the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.  The organization was established in the late 90’s to help celebrate and spread knowledge of Pacific Asian-Americans by way of museum exhibits, art, films, etc.  On Tuesday, September 21 2010 the APA Program hosted Erika Lee (woo!) and Judy Yung in a panel concerning Angel Island: it’s history, the immigrants who passed through, and the US policy on immigration then and today.  Here is a video of the panel:

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The recent publication of Yung and Lee’s book Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America sparked the panel and is talked about extensively throughout the video.

Too bad we couldn’t have all carpooled up to DC for the talk?!


Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I read a good chunk of Dogeaters on the bus back from a cross country race we had in Greensboro, North Carolina last weekend.  It’s always hard reading on the bus because everyone is still on a pretty big running high from the race – plus, the boys team always puts in some kind of loud and distracting action movie to watch.  This trip, one of the girls on my team stood up to the boys and suggested watching the movie she had brought along: Love Actually.  It’s one of my favorites, so of course it was equally as difficult trying to read with it playing in the background.  But for those of you who haven’t seen the film, it’s a multi-vocality story just like we discussed in class today.  We meet a large number of characters in different walks of life and social classes, eventually discovering how they’re lives all intertwine with one another.  When we were talking about the structure of Dogeaters in class today, I was reminded of this episodic method of telling the story in Love Actually and how successful it is in suggesting that no matter your social status, gender, race, etc., lives will collide with one another in even the smallest of ways.  This is often due to their strands of common themes that tie together so many lives.  While the primary theme in Love Actually is (you guess it) love, there are a number of themes in Dogeaters that can be traced through each of the narratives: gossip, power, manipulation, sexuality, just to name a few.  I think that the multi-vocality structure of Dogeaters is successful in suggesting that no matter your status in Manila, lives will intertwine even in the smallest ways due to the strong connecting themes that dominate and twist through each sub-story.

So Much RED

Monday, September 13th, 2010

I was really interested in the “White Tigers” chapter that we read from Woman Warrior for today’s class, particularly because the female image is so strongly portrayed throughout the entire fantasy.  After having been taken into the mountains to train with the old couple, the narrator speaks of how “Menstrual days did not interrupt my training; I was as strong as on any other day” (Kingston 30).  Even though her body is now fine tuned enough to be able to stop her menstruation, the old woman encourages her to continue the cycle – “‘Let it run.’ (‘Let it walk’ in Chinese)” (Kingston 31).  This reinforcement of womanhood is just as much of a dream as the entire fantasy is; she desires for her gender to be just as valued and powerful as the male gender.

The text speaks repetitively of the narrator’s menstrual cycles while in training, saying “I bled and thought about the people to be killed; I bled and thought about the people to be born” (Kingston 33).  In this particular passage, the narrator is reflecting on her masculine identity as a warrior while also being reminded that each passing cycle had had the opportunity for new life.  Also, throughout the “White Tigers” section, there are dozens of items or images that are described as being red – the paper that holds each bead she gets from the old couple, the saddle of her horse, the flags of her army and the bandages worn by her injured men.

I believe that there are multiple goals that are trying to be achieved by the author when speaking so openly and frequently about the menstrual flow of the young warrior.  At first while the narrator is in training, the bleeding through killings and bleeding through birth is told in such a rhythmic fashion that it seems the function is to show how time is passing and how her training is continuing in cycles.  Eventually of course, the ever present red coloring serves as a constant reminder to the woman who is now disguising herself as a man in order to be a warrior.  It reminds her that she is a woman, as well as the responsibilities she holds as a woman and the life she could be leading as a woman.  The red colors almost become an inside joke between the woman warrior and her husband, for both laugh when “The umbilical cord flew with the red flag,” (Kingston 40).  They both know of her true identity and they relish in the strength of the secret they keep.  Ultimately the secret and the development of the woman warrior is empowering to the female gender as a whole, and the entire fantasy serves to juxtapose the continuation of the novel where female rights are disregarded in the narrator’s society.

I Claim Ignorance By Way of Location

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Growing up in Massachusetts, I feel I was taught very little about history that didn’t involve Pilgrims, Puritans, and Revolutionary War heroes.  Ellis Island was definitely thrown into the mix somewhere around the 5th grade, but it was not until I began reading for this class that I had ever even heard of Angel Island.  Feeling like the most ignorant person on the planet, I immediately started Google-ing Angel Island in order to learn what I had been missing and why I had been missing it.  But this initial response of ignorance made me wonder: how important is geographical location in relation to what gets taught in the United States?  If you attend public school in the Boston area like I did, does that mean that teachers are more likely to spend extra time with you on the Boston Tea Party than teachers would in say, Portland Oregon?  And if this is the case, are educators spending more time on the West Coast talking about Angel Island than we are on the East?  Perhaps some of you have lived on the West Coast or in other parts of the US and can help me answer that.  Or (hopefully) some others are in the same boat as me?

In my quest for information, I found this great video on the multi-million dollar renovation of Angel Island.

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Also, if you visit the Angel Island website, it’s interesting to see how Angel Island is being advertised as a great “family outing” and ideal wedding destination.  I don’t know about you, but I think it would be a little odd to get married in a place that has such a rich history of anxiety, oppression, and despair.

AND, going into the whole Angel v. Ellis thing, here is a very interesting paper that I found via Dartmouth College.  It covers a few obvious similarities between Angel Island and Ellis Island, but then looks into the differences which get to be pretty crazy.  Not to mention the fact that the writer seems to lament with me towards the end of the piece, talking of how he/she was not exposed to Asian-American immigration and Angel Island until college.  I myself definitely feel a little cheated.