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  1. steve c
    steve c November 23, 2015 at 8:21 pm . Reply

    Hey Gord. It’s Steve C. Backtracking from the plagiarism news and I have to admit I’m not surprised by her reaction. When you’ve written a chinked-up telenovela/primetime K-soap in book form, why bother defending it?

    I’ve noticed that Aesop fable reading style here too, but I have to add that (having taught uni-level lit in the U.S.) roughly 9 out of 10 American kids showed up in my class doing the same. This is a decent uni too, supposedly attracting top-tier kids. They just don’t develop a next-level toolkit in high school.

    The problem here though is that (from what I hear) Korean profs don’t break them of that habit. Maybe it’s the idea of the canon as a set codex of transmittable knowledge rather than texts with shifting, negotiable ‘meanings,’ or maybe it’s the teaching to a multiple-choice test system. Not sure. Whatever it is, that habit doesn’t bode well for the future of the industry here.

    As for whether Asian American literature is a form of pulp: there are AA authors who’d agree with you. The tag ‘AA lit’ is like a prison, a ghetto of same-same immigrant narratives tucked away in the corner of the store. There’s the question of what books are *allowed* to be published though. Does a predominantly White audience want to read about Americans who just happen to be Asian? For about 100 years, the answer was No. Amy Tan, exoticism, and ethnic tourism were the big sellers.

    Pandering to the audience, serving up the same formulas, reinforcing stereotypes, etc.: these issues were all touched upon maybe 30-ish years ago in a battle for the soul of AA lit between Frank Chin and Maxine Hong Kingston. Obviously, Kingston won, which is why we still get AA book covers with cherry blossoms, porcelain, and silk shoes and etc. while you’re probably wondering, ‘Who’s Frank Chin?’

    Things have been getting better though.

    That said, I grew up in a generation starting to turn on our literary predecessors concerning the ubiquity of ‘identity.’ but now that I’m older I get it. 1. Again, what’s allowed to be published? 2. The politics of identity was a fight for the future of Asian-American vs. Asian American 3. so I think of how White audiences criticize Black comedians for always talking about race. ‘Why don’t they talk about life?’ Well, maybe being able to disentangle race from life is a luxury. Not that those authors always got it right about ‘identity,’ but… i understand the preoccupation.

    The food thing though…. man. You’ve seen how the top TV shows here are disproportionately of people cooking food and just eating it. That’s it. Like 삼시세끼 and that stuff. Then there’s 먹방. I have my theories, but I’ll stick to the subject of AA lit and its pandering to the cultural tourism of a White audience. If Shin had an international audience in mind (likely) then her food writing falls in line with a history of Chinatown tours and menu samplers, for example: “First, waipuo (italicized) chopped scallions and ginger into soy sauce as a dipping sauce for the baozi (italicized), fluffy white rolls of… (description of the dish).” This is in first person. Food she’s eaten all her life. What is she, describing it to herself?? It’s a problem David Wong Louie riffs on in his very self-aware and quite good “The Barbarians are Coming,” with a Chinese chef protagonist willingly chinking it up for a TV show.

    The philosophy of ‘How will it play in Peoria?’ explains a lot of this nonsense. I haven’t read Shin, but feel like I have, dozens and dozens of times

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