Courses Designed to
Meet General Education Requirements
Identity/US Cultures Studies
ASIAN AMERICAN LITERATURE
University of Michigan Fall 1995
Context: The course below, a study
of Asian American literary history and
bases for critical analyses, has been
taught and developed since I first offered
it at Washington State University in
1981. At the University of Michigan,
the course is among the choices for
fulfilling the requirement for the study
of race and ethnicity in the College
of Literature, Science, and Arts. In
the fall of 1995, it enrolled seventy-six
students, and by the evidence of their
work and consultations in the course,
most of them experienced it as a "transformative"
course. For a brief discussion of what
this entails, see my article, "Asian/Pacific
American Literature in the Classroom,"
in the Forum, "What Do We Need
to Teach?," American Literature
65:2 (June 1993): 348-53.
This term, English 381/American Culture
324 is a study of major works and authors
of fiction, drama, and poetry from the
late-1800s to the mid-1980s. It is a
study of how Asian American literary
traditions have developed and how they
are related to other traditions of American
literature within historical, social,
political, and cultural contexts. The
course is also an examination of themes
that have most interested the authors
we shall read, as well as an analysis
of the literary and other means by which
the authors have treated their themes.
The authors and themes themselves form
contexts within which later, sometimes
very popular ones (such as Amy Tan and
The Joy Luck Club ) may be read
and critiqued. The readings in 381/324
are assumed to be fundamental to Asian
American literary studies, the curriculum
in interdisciplinary Asian/Pacific American
Studies at the University of Michigan,
and current work at large in American
H. Sumida, Associate Professor of English
and of American Culture. OFFICE HOURS:
Mondays 1-3 p.m., Tuesdays 10-11 a.m.,
and by appointment, 7625 Haven Hall;
TEXTS: Texts are available
at Shaman Drum Bookshop (313 South State
Street). Copies of many of the required
and recommended texts are on reserve
at the undergraduate library. The required
texts are supplemented by stories poems,
drama, and articles assigned either
as Coursepack readings, handouts, activities,
or recommended (*) readings.
Bruchac, Joseph, ed. Breaking Silence:
An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American
Poets. Greenfield Center: The Greenfield
Review Press, 1983.
Bulosan, Carlos. America Is in the
Heart. 1946; rpt. Seattle: Univ. of
Washington Press, 1973.
Chin, Frank. The Chickencoop Chinaman
and The Year of the Dragon: Two Plays.
Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press,
Chock, Eric, and Darrell H. Y. Lum,
eds. The Best of Bamboo Ridge: The Hawaii
Writers' Quarterly. Honolulu: Bamboo
Ridge Press, 1986.
Chu, Louis. Eat a Bowl of Tea. 1961;
rpt. Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press,
1979; rpt. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1986.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior:
Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.
Kogawa, Joy. Obasan. Boston: David
R. Godine, 1982; ppbk., 1984.
Mukherjee, Bharati. The Middleman and
Other Stories. New York: Ballantine
Murayama, Milton. All I Asking for
Is My Body. San Francisco: Supa Press,
1975; rpt. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii
Okada, John. No-No Boy. 1957; rpt.
San Francisco, C.A.R.P., 1976; rpt.
Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press,
Song, Cathy. Picture Bride. New Haven:
Yale Univ. Press, 1983.
Yamamoto, Hisaye. Seventeen Syllables
and Other Stories. Albany: Kitchen Table
and Women of Color Press, 1988.
COURSEPACK: The required
Coursepack is available at Michigan
Document Services, 603 Church Street.
RECOMMENDED TEXTS (indicated
by *): In class I shall describe and
critique each of the following to you,
and as the course proceeds, tell you
about more Asian American literary works
than I can name in this syllabus. In
them you might find what you need to
research your papers. For multidisciplinary
contexts as well as references to earlier
research, *Frontiers of Asian American
Studies, edited by Gail M. Nomura et
al., is most highly recommended.
*Chan, Jeffery Paul et al., eds. The
Big Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Chinese
American and Japanese American Literature.
New York: Meridien, 1991.
*Kim, Elaine H. Asian American Literature:
An Introduction to the Writings and
Their Social Context. Philadelphia:
Temple Univ. Press, 1982.
*Lee, Lee C., ed. Asian Americans:
Collages of Identities. Ithaca: Cornell
Univ. Asian American Studies Program,
*Lim, Shirley Geok-lin, and Amy Ling,
eds. Reading the Literatures of Asian
America. Philadelphia: Temple Univ.
*Nomura, Gail M., et al, eds. Frontiers
of Asian American Studies: Writing,
Research, and Commentary. Pullman: Washington
State Univ. Press, 1989.
*Sumida, Stephen H. And the View from
the Shore: Literary Traditions of Hawai`i.
Seattle: Univ. of Washington Press,
*Watanabe, Sylvia, and Carol Bruchac,
eds. Home to Stay: Asian American Women's
Fiction. Greenfield Center: Greenfield
Review Press, 1990.
*Wong, Sau-ling Cynthia. Reading Asian
American Literature: From Necessity
to Extravagance. Princeton: Princeton
Univ. Press, 1993.
SCHEDULE: In the schedule
for the first month of the course I
specify reading assignments for each
day we meet. Afterwards, for the sake
of needed flexibility, the schedule
is not as tightly drawn, and I generally
go on to list the reading for the entire
week rather than for each day we meet.
Please ask for more detail if and when
you need it.
6 September.: Introduction to the course.
8 Sept.: Reading: Louis Chu, Eat a
Bowl of Tea, Chapters I-XXII (or further
if you wish). Selections from Island
; "Asian Americans and U. S. Laws";
"Some Important Immigration Laws";
and "Plot Synopses for Comparison"
(Coursepack). Recommended: Wong Sam's
phrase book, in *The Big Aiiieeeee!
When preparing for this meeting, try
asking yourself: What is the central
conflict in Eat a Bowl of Tea? Between
or among whom? Why?
11-15 Sept.: For Monday: Sui Sin Far,
"In the Land of the Free";
Jade Snow Wong, "A Measure of Freedom";
Daniel I. Okimoto, from American in
Disguise (Coursepack). For Wednesday:
Aiiieeeee!, "An Introduction to
Chinese and Japanese American Literature"
(pp. 3-38) (Coursepack). Recommended:
*Annette White-Parks, "Women's
Force: Between Image and Reality of
Chinese Immigrant Women in Literature,"
in *Frontiers of Asian American Studies;
and selections by Sui Sin Far in *Big
Aiiieeeee! For Friday: finish reading
Eat a Bowl of Tea.
18-22 Sept.: Reading for Monday and
for discussion, throughout the week,
of conflicting constructs of Chinese
American literary history: Jeffery Chan's
introduction to Eat a Bowl of Tea; Ted
Gong, "Approaching Cultural Change
through Literature: From Chinese to
Chinese American"; and Jeffery
Chan et al., "Resources for Chinese
and Japanese American Literary Traditions"
(Coursepack). Also part of Monday's
lecture: *Elaine H. Kim's remarks about
Chu and his novel (in her *Asian American
Literature); and Stephen H. Sumida's
article on "First Generations"
(Coursepack). Recommended: *Sau-ling
Cynthia Wong, "What's in a Name?
Defining Chinese American Literature
of the Immigrant Generation," in
*Frontiers of Asian American Studies
. Wednesday: in-class viewing from Wayne
Wang's film, Eat a Bowl of Tea. Discussion:
gender and sexuality in the novel. For
Friday: Laureen Mar, Alan Chong Lau,
Fay Chiang, and other poets to be introduced
and assigned, in Breaking Silence
25-29 Sept.: For Monday: John Okada,
No-No Boy, pp. vii-101. Also: "Background
Fact Sheet"; Roger Sale, from Seattle:
Past to Present; and Dorothy Ritsuko
McDonald, "After Imprisonment:
Ichiro's Search for Redemption in No-No
Boy" (Coursepack). *Kim's remarks
about Okada. For Wednesday: No-No Boy,
103-189. "Issei Poetry" and
Sumida's article on "localism"
(Coursepack). Friday: in-class videotape,
Home from the Eastern Sea.
2-6 Oct.: No-No Boy (cont'd). Complete
reading of the novel and the Afterword
for this week. Also: *Sumida, "Japanese
American Moral Dilemmas," and essays
and transcripts regarding the Heart
Mountain Resistance, by James Omura,
Frank Emi, and Frank Chin, all in *Frontiers
of Asian American Studies . To be assigned
in Breaking Silence: Kimiko Hahn, Lawson
Inada, Janice Mirikitani, and others,
poetry. Selections from Hisaye Yamamoto's
Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories.
9-13 Oct.: Reading: Carlos Bulosan,
America Is in the Heart, Introduction
and Parts One and Two. Also: E. San
Juan, Jr., "From Carlos Bulosan
and the Imagination of the Class Struggle";
S. E. Solberg, "An Introduction
to Filipino American Literature,"
from Aiiieeeee! (pp. 39-58) (Coursepack).
Recommended reading: *Marilyn Alquizola,
"The Fictive Narrator of America
Is in the Heart," in *Frontiers.
In-class videotape: "Dollar a Day,
Ten Cents a Dance."
16-20 Oct.: PAPER I DUE MONDAY, 16
OCTOBER 1995. Reading: America Is in
the Heart, Parts Three and Four. Further
reading: J. C. Dionisio, "A Summer
in an Alaskan Salmon Cannery" (Coursepack).
Other authors to be discussed in lecture:
Bienvenido Santos ("Immigration
Blues" and "Scent of Apples,"
in Coursepack); N. V. M. Gonzalez ("A
Warm Hand" and "The Popcorn
Man," in Coursepack); Jessica Tarahata
Hagedorn (excerpt from her Dogeaters,
in Coursepack); Cyn. Zarco; Jeff Tagami;
and others (in Breaking Silence).
23-27 Oct.: Reading: Frank Chin, The
Year of the Dragon. In-class videotape
viewing of The Year of the Dragon .
Also read Dorothy McDonald's introduction.
Further reading: *Kim's remarks on Chinese
American writers, manhood, and Frank
Chin. Begin reading: Maxine Hong Kingston,
30 Oct.-3 Nov.: For Monday, finish
readingWoman Warrior. For Wednesday:
early reviews of Woman Warrior; Reed
Way Dasenbrock on Kingston and other
ethnic writers; Kingston, "Cultural
Mis-Readings," on her reviewers
(Coursepack). Recommended: *Kim's remarks
on Kingston and *Chin's "Come All
Ye Asian American Writers of the Real
and the Fake," in *Big Aiiieeeee!
For Friday: further discussion of critical
issues in Asian American literature
and the cases of Kingston's Woman Warrior
and China Men. Reading: King-Kok Cheung's
article on Kingston and Alice Walker;
Edward Iwata's newspaper article, "Word
Warriors," on Chinese American,
Chin vs. Kingston "pen wars"
(Coursepack). Wednesday through Saturday,
1-4 Nov., at 8 p.m., David Henry Hwang's
M. Butterfly will be performed at the
Mendelssohn Theatre (in the Michigan
League), directed by Simon Ha. This
drama tests our critical approaches
in interesting ways.
6-10 Nov.: Reading: Milton Murayama,
All I Asking for Is My Body (at least
Part One of the novelette by Monday
and Parts Two and Three by Wednesday).
Lecture on Hawaii's literary and historical
contexts for this novel, as in *Sumida,
*And the View from the Shore. Also:
*Kim's remarks on Murayama. Friday,
10 Nov.: Reading: selections from The
Best of Bamboo Ridge.
13-22 Nov.: Reading: Joy Kogawa, Obasan.
Also: Shirley Lim on "ethnopoetics"
(Coursepack). PAPER 2 DUE FRIDAY, 17
23-26 November: Thanksgiving Break.
27 Nov.-1 Dec.: Reading: Bharati Mukherjee,
The Middleman and Other Stories. Also:
Sucheta Mazumdar, Race and Racism: South
Asians in the United States" and
Alan Wald, "Theorizing Ethnic Difference"
(Coursepack). Lectures on Mukherjee,
Meena Alexander, Sara Suleri, Vikram
Set, and other South Asian American
4-8 Dec.: Cathy Song, Picture Bride
(selected poems, to be assigned). Also:
S. E. Solberg, "The Literature
of Korean America" (Coursepack).
Lectures on Younghill Kang, Richard
Kim, Theresa Cha, Song, Gloria Hahn
(Kim Ronyoung), Gary Pak, et al.
FINAL PAPER DUE (7-10 PP.) ON MONDAY,
14 DECEMBER 1995, BY 5 P.M. AT 7625
ENGLISH 381/AMERICAN CULTURE
324 PAPERS, QUIZZES, AND GRADES: The
basic writing requirement for the course
consists of two brief papers (3-5 typed,
double-spaced pages each) and a Final
Paper (7-10 pp.) as scheduled above.
The Final Paper grade will count twice
the grade for a short paper. Announced
and possibly unannounced quizzes (@
5 points per question, total score of
95 or above equalling an A), will weigh
as much as an individual short paper
in the final grading. Thus the grade
proportions are: each of two short papers
accounts for 20% of the final grade;
the total quiz score, 20%; Final Paper,
40%. While there are no exams in this
course, the regular quizzes serve in
part to measure the consistency of your
preparedness and your attendance, both
of which are required, throughout the
semester. The quizzes are a way for
me to credit and respond to you frequently
in the course, whereas your papers and
my responses to them are few. Generally,
in the quizzes I'll pose "multiple
choice" items involving factual
matters we've discussed in required
texts and their contexts; often, I choose
the facts to ask about because they
affect interpretation. For instance,
if F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby
were one of our required texts, following
discussion of it I might ask in a quiz,
"What is Gatsby's ethnicity by
birth?" I would then give three
a. He was born German American and
named James Gatz, but he emerged from
his service in WWI, in American uniform,
with the identity he gave himself, "Jay
Gatsby," and claimed he had an
Oxford education, in order to pass for
Anglo at a time when being German American
was not much prized.
b. Gatsby is a total enigma. His East
Egg nextdoor neighbors do not even know
whether "Gatsby," like the
"T" in "Mr. T,"
is his first, last, middle, or only
name. The narrator of the novel, Nick,
never learns Gatsby's history so he's
unable to disclose it to us. This means
that Gatsby's ethnicity does not matter
at all, whether to him or to his neighbors.
All that matters is that he has money,
but it seems to be new and not old,
and this distinction is the crux of
the discrimination he faces.
c. Gatsby, like Joe Christmas in Faulkner's
Light in August, is a "white"
man trying to hide the fact that he
may have racially "mixed"
blood, and because he was abandoned
at birth, he does not even know what
that "mixture" is. Fitzgerald
examines whether and how a person with
such a confused identity can nonetheless
achieve great wealth in America. The
novel raises the question: what counts
more to Americans--their racialist fears
and hatreds or their love of material
You should be aware that absences from
class are likely to mean not only that
you might earn a poor score for quizzes
(20% of your course grade) but also
that you might miss crucial information
and analyses needed for the writing
of your papers. Although I call an entire
set of texts "recommended"
ones, I by no means think that we are
to read any of them uncritically. Some
that I "recommend" in this
syllabus I disagree with heartily. Some
in the Coursepack too I find eminently
disagreeable. In order to choose to
argue with or against me, in an essay,
you would have to have some idea of
the views I express in lecture on the
texts. Simply taking an essay assignment
and writing the paper you think is called
for can be disastrous without your knowing
what we say and argue in class. As for
your papers, in general you will be
graded on how well in your essays you
understand, define, and support your
responses to questions you have been
assigned or have chosen to pursue within
your specific topic. Failure to come
to terms with the fundamental concepts
in the course means the failure of an
essay with such a shortcoming. Each
paper or report is expected to be more
than a presentation of information:
it is the working out of an idea. And
missing papers simpy do not count. I
shall not accept revisions after the
specified due dates for each paper.
If you wish to revise, then please draft
your paper well in advance, show it
to me, and heed my advice for your final
draft. In doing this, make your earlier
draft as firm and finished as possible,
so that my comments to you will touch
the heart of your paper and not just
jiggle the flab. Be sure to cite your
sources (i. e. write endnotes and bibliographies
for your papers when necessary, or else
build citations directly into the texts
of your essays) whenever you use readings,
lectures, or other forms of resources
in your writing of papers in this course.
Use your sources critically (e. g. by
stating or implying why you choose to
use them at those places in your discussion).
I am interested in your ideas and your
words for expressing and developing
them, based upon the words we read and