Multiple choice: Literary racial formations of mixed race Americans of Asian descent
Leonard, Shannon T.
Aranda, Jose F., Jr.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation reassesses key paradigms of Asian American literary studies in the interest of critically accounting for the cultural productions of mixed race Asian Americans. Over the last twenty years, Asian American literary criticism has focused narrowly on a small body of writers, such as Maxine Hong Kingston, David Henry Hwang, and Amy Tan, who achieved mainstream popularity with U.S. feminists and/or multiculturalists, or focused on authors like Frank Chin and John Okada whose literary personas and works lend themselves to overt appropriations for civil rights causes and/or identity politics. "Multiple Choice" participates in a renewed interest in the expansion of Asian American literary boundaries and critical inquiry. "Multiple Choice" addresses the complex racial formations of select mixed race Asian American authors and subjects from the turn of the century to the present. My study situates, both theoretically and historically, the diverse ways in which mixed race peoples variously represent themselves. As the dissertation's metaphorical title suggests, self-representations, or an individual's ethnic choices, especially in the case of mixed race Americans, are constantly adjudicated by others (e.g. cultural critics, the media, or U.S. census designers and evaluators). Notwithstanding the omnipresence of these external forces, "Multiple Choice" also engages the complex sets of choices made from within specific Asian American communities, particularly those choices that come in conflict with other Asian American identities. The dissertation looks at writers both well-known and virtually unknown: Edith Eaton, Winnifred Eaton, Sadakichi Hartmann, Aimee Liu, Chang-rae Lee, Amy Tan, Shawn Wong, Jessica Hagedorn, Peter Bacho, Thaddeus Rutkowski, and Paisley Rekdal.
American studies; American literature; Sociology; Ethnic studies