Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction

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9780140231113: Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction

The writers included in this ground-breaking anthology are exhilarating in their differences: cultural backgrounds, age range, literary styles. From Jose Garcia Villa's minimalist "Untitled Story, " first published in 1933, to Meena Alexander's "Manhattan Music, " with its razor-sharp look at the hip downtown New York art scene of the troubled 1990s, their stories sweep across the twentieth century and across the range of Asian American experience. These characters make love, worry about the future, endure hardships. They audition for jobs as anchormen. They are displaced, assimilated, rebellious. They lie and cheat; they betray themselves and others. These are stories about Asian Americans, yes, but, finally, they are stories about life.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A generous and varied sampling: 48 authors writing in a variety of styles, 22 selections previously unpublished and many others published only overseas or by journals or small presses--a substantial, often engrossing volume at a bargain price. Hagedorn has included traditionally structured fiction that directly addresses cultural experience: in ``Immigration Blues,'' by Bienvenido Santos, an ailing widower is approached by a Filipina who needs an American husband; the excerpt from Shawn Wong's novel- in-progress is a frank, cleareyed, often funny look at the cultural and racial subtext when two Asian-Americans have an affair; and several selections are outright family memoir or memoir-like. Some authors shatter myths of the ``model minority'' with stories of family violence, sexual transgression. There's also much experimentation here--usually focused on personal life rather than on culture and history: poetic meditation (notably, ``Afterbirth'' by Kimiko Hahn); a disturbing, self-conscious broken narrative from John Yau; an effective series of vignettes and incantatory passages by R. Zamora Linmark; the use of pidgin by Hawaiian writers Lois- Ann Yamanaka and Darell Lum. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, less aesthetically pleasing but extremely influential, uses fragmentation and exhortation to write of Korean politics (``Melpomene Tragedy''). Best-known contributors include Cynthia Kadohata, Maxine Hong Kingston, Bharati Mukherjee (all with previously published work) and Amy Tan (a touching outtake from The Kitchen God's Wife). If there's bias here, it's a slight tilt toward the Philippines and to writers from the vibrant Bay Area multicultural scene: varying quality but largely inclusive--though surely needing an update soon to include Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian- American voices. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In her introduction Hagedorn ( Danger and Beauty ) calls Asian American literature "too confining a term" for these wide-ranging works. And indeed while the short stories and novel excerpts, nearly half being published for the first time, provide interesting reading, they seem to lack a cohering premise. Moreover, pieces by well-known writers like Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan are not particularly fresh. The most successful of the works paint sharp portraits of individuals. Gish Jen's Catholic-school girl is eager to work miracles, especially after her mother falls from a bedroom window during a fight with her father. Cynthia Kadohata's domineering grandmother insists on telling inappropriate stories and affects the narrator so forcefully that the girl swears, "Anything she does, I never will." Marilyn Chin's Moon is "a little fat Chinese girl" who is humiliated by two boys who urinate on her, and subsequently by her parents, then wreaks supernatural revenge. Cherylene Lee's narrator tells how her brother came to be a flame diver despite their overprotective parents' disapproval and muses that "Perhaps there is a Chinese gene encoded with a protein for caution."
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Jessica Hagedorn (Editor)
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