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Beyond Literary Chinatown written by Jeffrey F. L. Partridge

 

Beyond Literary Chinatown written by Jeffrey F. L. Partridge

Overview:

The phenomenon of "literary Chinatown"-the ghettoization of Chinese American literature-was produced by the same dynamics of race and representation that ghettoized the Chinese American community into literal Chinatowns. In a 1982 response to reviews of The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston pinpointed the crux of the matter: "How dare they make their ignorance our inscrutability!"

Jeffrey F. L. Partridge examines the dynamic relationship between reader expectations of Chinese American literature and the challenges to these expectations posed by recent Chinese American texts. Arguing that authors like Kingston, Li-Young Lee, Gish Jen, Shawn Wong, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, and David Wong Louie are aware of their readers' horizons and write to challenge those assumptions, Partridge demonstrates how their writings function as a potent medium of cultural transformation.

With attentive readings not only of literary texts but also of book reviews and publishers' marketing materials, Partridge enables us to chart and to understand the changes in Chinese American literature and its reception in the past fifty years. In doing so, he threads a new path forward in the discussion of race and ethnicity in America, one that encompasses the historical valence of multiculturalism and the cross-fertilizing perspectives of postmodern hybridity theory while remaining cognizant of the persistence of racist and racialized thinking in contemporary American society. Beyond Literary Chinatown demonstrates how Chinese American literature has come to negotiate the tensions between the expression of ethnic identity and a resistance to racialization.

About the Author:
Jeffrey F. L. Partridgecurrently coordinates the Liberal Arts and Sciences program for Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut

Synopsis:

The phenomenon of "literary Chinatown"--the ghettoization of Chinese American literature--was produced by the same dynamics of race and representation that ghettoized the Chinese American community into literal Chinatowns. In a 1982 response to reviews of Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston pinpointed the crux of the matter: "How dare they make their ignorance our inscrutability!" Jeffrey F. L. Partridge examines the dynamic relationship between reader expectations of Chinese American literature and the challenges to these expectations posed by recent Chinese American texts, challenges that push our understanding of a multicultural society to new horizons. Partridge builds on the concept of a "reading horizon"--a set of expectations and assumptions that a reader brings to a text--to explore the crucial interplay between reader, author, and text.

Arguing that authors like Kingston, Li-Young Lee, Gish Jen, Shawn Wong, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, and David Wong Louie are aware of their readers' horizons and write to challenge those assumptions, Partridge demonstrates how their writings function as a potent medium of cultural transformation. With attentive readings not only of literary texts but also of book reviews and publishers' marketing materials, Partridge enables us to chart and to understand the changes in Chinese American literature and its reception in the past fifty years. In doing so, he threads a new path forward in the discussion of race and ethnicity in America, one that encompasses the historical valence of multiculturalism and the cross-fertilizing perspectives of postmodern hybridity theory while remaining cognizant of the persistence of racist and racialized thinking incontemporary American society. Beyond Literary Chinatown demonstrates how Chinese American literature has come to negotiate the tensions between the expression of ethnic identity and a resistance to racialization. This important contribution to the growing body of critical works on Asian American literature will be of interest to reception theorists and scholars of American ethnic studies and American literature.

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Title: Beyond Literary Chinatown

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