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This class is also a first for me. For some reason, or a million excuses, ethnic literature isn't being studied in schools to this day. And to have a different opinion or point of view really helps readers to have a far greater understanding of the world than they had before. There is more than one person, one race watching. Each of us has a part of the story to tell, pass down and protect for future generations. I can recommend all four books that I used for this class.
"Asian American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology," edited by Shawn Wong, is an impressive achievement. The book gathers a range of pieces in many genres by more than 30 authors. The authors represented are a diverse group. There is a good balance of male and female writers. The authors represent both United States-born individuals and immigrants. One author, Frank Chin, is a fifth-generation Chinese American. Other authors trace their roots to Japan, India, China, Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, or Laos. Some represent biracial backgrounds. Several generations of writers, from Sui Sin Far (1867-1914) to Monique Thuy-Dung Truong (b. 1968) are represented.
Several genres of literature are also represented. The selections in the anthology are grouped into four sections: nonfiction prose, fiction, poetry, and drama. Each author's contribution is preceded by an interesting individual introduction which contains useful bibliographic data; this material is further supplemented by a bibliography at the end of the book. Editor Wong also includes a fascinating preface to the whole book. This supplemental material is full of interesting information, such as the story of Wong's rediscovery of pioneering Japanese American writer Toshio Mori.
There are many highlights to this fine anthology: Amy Tan's essay "Mother Tongue," in which she reflects on "the different Englishes" she uses; Bienvenido Santos' "Quicker with Arrows," a story of interracial love during World War II; Bharati Mukherjee's "The Management of Grief," a story about the aftermath of an apparent terrorist bombing; Lawson Fusao Inada's "Legends from Camp," a cycle of poems about the internment of Japanese Americans in U.S. concentration camps during World War II; Watako Yamauchi's "The Music Lessons," a play about the struggles of a Japanese American family during the Depression of the 1930s; and much more.
I did find a small number of typographical errors or apparent factual mistakes throughout the book; for example, at one point Frank Chin's novel "Donald Duk" seems to be mistakenly referred to as "Donald Pink" (I know of no novel by the latter name). And the concluding bibliography, while useful, is confusingly presented. But these problems aside, I found "Asian American Literature" to be an enriching anthology. This is one of those wonderful books that is excellent both for classroom use and for individual reading. I believe that this book will move you emotionally and impress you artistically while at the same time educating you about Asian American culture.