This book examines how Asian American authors since 1945 have deployed the stereotype of Asian American inscrutability in order to re-examine and debunk the stereotype in various ways.
By paying special attention to what narrative theorists have regarded as one of the most extraordinary aspects of fiction—its ability to give (or else deny) readers a remarkably detailed knowledge of the inner lives of their characters—this book explores deeply and systematically the specific ways Asian American narratives attribute inscrutable minds to Asian American characters, situating them at various points along a spectrum stretching between alterity and empathy.
Ultimately, the book reveals the link between narrative form and larger cultural issues associated with the representation of Asian American minds, and how a nuanced investigation of narrative form can yield insights into the sociocultural embeddedness of Asian American literature under the case studies—insights that would not be available if such formal questions were by passed.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Inscrutability, Asian American narratives, and narrative theory
Representing the inscrutable memory of "comfort women" in Chang-rae Lee’s A Gesture Life (1999)
Scrutability for readerly recognition in Monique Truong’s The Book of Salt (2003)
Visualizing Asian American inscrutability in Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel, Shortcomings (2007)
Contextualizing the affect, ethics, and politics of female silence in Hisaye Yamamoto’s short stories, "Seventeen Syllables" (1949) and "Wilshire Bus" (1950)
Memorializing the inscrutable history of others: Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976) and GB Tran’s Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey (2010)
Conclusion: Bridging the fields
Hyesu Park received her PhD in English from Ohio State University in 2014 and is currently an associate professor of English at Bellevue College, USA. In 2015 and 2016, she was a visiting professor at FLAME University, Pune, India. Her research interests include American and Asian American literatures, narrative theory, media studies, and South Korean literature and popular culture. Her articles have appeared in Image & Narrative, Studies in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature, and American Book Review. Her book publications include Understanding Hallyu: The Korean Wave Through Literature, Webtoon, and Mukbang and Media Culture in Transnational Asia: Convergences and Divergences (edited volume).
"With Alterity and Empathy in Post-1945 Asian American Narratives, Hyesu Park adds another important contribution to the growing conversation about race and narrative form. In her work unpacking the figure of the ‘inscrutable Asian,’ Park explores the various ways that rhetorical and cognitive approaches to narrative can help readers to better understand the cultural work of contemporary Asian American narratives, while also compellingly demonstrating the continued need to broaden the canon of narratives upon which new developments in narrative theory are built." James J. Donahue, SUNY Potsdam (Potsdam, NY)