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"Over the mountains
There are mountains"

a look at asian pacific american literature
Written by Jessica Lim

From the onset of this independent study, I thought for some time about how exactly I would approach it and what I hoped to get out of it. Ultimately, I looked forward to learning something about Asian Americans and their literature that I would find enlightening not only for myself, but also as reinforcement that Asian Americans as a whole are speaking up about their pasts and futures.

Jessica Lim

The author of the article spent her her undergraduate studies at Rutgers College, New Brunswick. She received a BA Journalism in English

She presently works at Digital Form Ltd. In New York as a project manager.

Her past articles has been seen in School Arts Magazine and Koream Journal.

I had originally wanted to learn more about the Asian American experience in general, and from that gain a stronger understanding of what Asian Americans were up to, how they have been developing, and in a greater sense, grasp what it is they wanted from living in America. But rather than simply learning about a certain sect of people and their attitude towards themselves and examining their examinations about living in America, I chose to turn to literature. I wanted to see what they found compelling enough to write about; what they found worthy to express with a powerful tool (writing) to create a history and a voice for a group of people that have yet to be studied in apt detail. The Asian American experience as expressed in literature is unique and through such writings, various Asian American writers are in a sense teaching and enhancing the overall quality of literature in America. By introducing new complex characters and intriguing relationships, Asian American literature is a new break that is steadily starting to make waves.

With the understanding that in retrospect, Asian Americans have not inhabited the United States for many generations (not in comparison to other races); I feel that the general public, including literature professors and other intellectuals do not fully understand the Asian American, the rich experience that is a default action of their lives, and I believe that clarity is a necessity prior to Asian Americans' movement forward in both the literary world and all other sects of American culture and society. Many of the books that I have read were adorned with accolades and praise from prestigious institutions and reputable sources such as "The New York Times Book Review" and "Vanity Fair".

One thing that I found immediately disturbing was the misuse of the term immigrant. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, an immigrant is defined as:

  • 1. One who leaves a country to permanently settle in another.
  • 2.An organism that appears where it was formerly unknown.
Lan Samantha Chang's HUNGER

What I found disturbing was that a very important point was being overlooked. The term immigrant was being used to also describe the immigrants' children. The novel "Native Speaker" is a story about Henry, and his experiences as an Asian growing up in America. And although by definition his parents, the ones who left their native Korean to move to America are by definition immigrants, he is not. Nor are the other multitudes of Asian Americans who are often clumped collectively as immigrants- this is problematic because the misuse of the term connotes an attached stigma of foreignness or a sense of not belonging to a group of people who are in fact not foreign.

However, it was this problem I had with the usage of the term immigrant and the other term 'immigrant experience' that led me to further investigate the difference amongst Asian Americans and the complexity of their relationships with one another and also with those outside of their race. Throughout history, different races, such as the African Americans dealt with the notion that if a certain people were able to prove themselves, give themselves a sense of value by showing others and themselves that they were able to create something beautiful- their race would rise to a new level.

This was nonetheless a sticky subject that led to yet another argument that supported the notion that in order for a people to find that same value was to go back to learning about their roots; a return to their homeland, figuratively if not literally. But many of the younger African American writers felt estranged to this idea of a homeland; their knowledge was based on their lives that had started and would continue in a place other than this 'homeland'. In fact, the whole notion of a homeland seemed 'incorrect', and it was then that another idea was set; the idea that in order to prove oneself as good was to be considered good by the standards that already were in place. Being an accomplished African American painter or writer meant being considered good by both African Americans and the status quo. The reason why I mention this is because I think it has had an effect on the Asian Americans' rather silent emergence into the American scene.

There are similarities that exist between these two peoples and ironically enough; it is these two peoples that have conflicted with each other and have received media coverage in an America that generally slacks when it comes to minority coverage in any media medium. Perhaps then, rather than discussing the similarities, it is the differences between these distinct characters that suggests a powerful message about the Asian American and how he/she contributes another kind of character to the already colorful palette of American culture.

To continue with the article, click HERE

    Part 1: Learning the definition of being an immigrant
    Part 2: The many "layers" of being an immigrant
    Part 3: Immigrant Asian's interaction with an Asian American
    Part 4: Relationship between an Asian immigrant and another Asian immigrant
    Part 5: Relationship between an Asian American and an American
    Part 6: Info on what America is and what it can be

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