Posted by litdaily on June 26, 2011
Chinglish, the latest play by David Henry Hwang, premieres today at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre with a scheduled run through July 24, 2011. Chinglish takes on a theme that Hwang also explored in his popular Broadway play M. Butterfly: a Western man in China entrapped in his orientalist vision of the East as feminine, mysterious, and at the same time also incomprehensible. Hwang’s latest play is about an American businessman in China and reprises the East-West encounter in the context of fear of a surging Chinese economy. While Gallimard in M. Butterfly was a French diplomat navigating the war theatre in South-east Asia, the changed occupation of the protagonist in Chinglish to a businessman reflects that capitalist economy has replaced the paradigm of militarism as the new frontier that drives the West’s imagination of China. You can find Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones’s preview of Chinglish and an interesting discussion of Hwang’s writing process here.
Another Hwang play Yellow Face is playing at the Silk Road Theatre Company and is produced in collaboration with Goodman. Yellow Face seeks to bring honesty to discussions about the role of race in casting media productions. The play’s context includes Hwang’s role in the controversy surrounding the casting of New York theatre production of Miss Saigon in 1990, when Asian Americans protested the casting of Jonathan Pryce, a Welsh-born white actor, to play an Asian character…more>>
Posted in Arts, Chicago Literary Scene, Miscellaneous | Tagged: Asian American Chicago, Asian American Plays in Chicago, Chinglish, David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly, Yellow Face | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on June 22, 2011
Eye on India festival will take place from July 8th-17th in Chicago. The festival will showcase a number of events from literature to yoga/ayurveda…find out more>>
In terms of literature, Tarun Tejpal, Hari Kunzru, Shrabani Basu, and Nayantara Sahgal will be discussing their work at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Posted in Arts, Books, Chicago Literary Scene, Miscellaneous | Tagged: Books, Chicago, Chicago literary festival, Hari Kunzru, Journalism, Nayantara Sahgal, Shrabani Basu, Tarun Tejpal | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on June 12, 2011
South Asian comedian Aziz Ansari will be performing at Genesee Theatre in suburban Waukegan on June 14 as part of his “Dangerously Delicious” comedy tour. Ansari’s roles as Tom Haverford in NBC’s Parks and Recreation and as stand up comedian Randy in Judd Apatow’s Funny People have received critical attention. Both Haverford and Randy are annoying characters, but Ansari makes them funny and memorable through his characteristic deadpan delivery. His material and characters play around with racial identity in interesting ways: his racial status is never denied but also never seems central to his roles…more>>
Russell Peters will be performing with George Lopez at the Rosemont Theatre on June 18 as part of the 2011 TBS Just for Laughs Chicago Festival…more>>
Posted in Miscellaneous, TV & Media | Tagged: Asian American Stand-Up Comedy, Aziz Ansari, Chicago Events, Russell Peters, South Asian Comedians | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on June 10, 2011
Summer is the best time to be in Chicago. The Wells Street Art Center is this weekend, open from 10 am-10 pm. It is the city’s largest and most acclaimed art event, held in the heart of Chicago’s historic Old Town neighborhood…more>>
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Art, Chicago, Events, Old Town Neighborhood, Wells Street Art Festival | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on May 6, 2011
Two recent profiles of Ai-jen Poo and Bhairavi Desai, Asian American community organizers, have received none of the media attention and publicity lavished on the provocative story of “tiger mother” Amy Chua. Media is much more open to news stories and personal narratives that portray Asian Americans as exceptionally successful in well-paying professions and as model minorities who discipline themselves (and their children) into self-improvement, through harsh means if necessary, instead of complaining about their life conditions. The attention devoted to financially successful Asian Americans is used to disavow the concerns of Filipina maids or South Asian taxi drivers.
These profiles remind us of the history of Asian Americans in activism and their fight for social justice as part of working class inter-racial coalitions. Stories of Asian American labor organizers are invisible because they do not fit neatly into the model minority rubric that defines Asian Americans in public discourse. Barbara Ehrenreich profiles Ai-jen Poo, the founder-director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, and finds her political trajectory an unlikely path for the daughter of Chinese immigrants:
My image of a union organizer, based on extensive personal experience, is a big, loud guy with a bullhorn, not a slender, soft-spoken former women’s studies major whose reflexive response to a crowd is to melt into the sidelines. Nor does Ai-jen Poo look like a typical D.W.U. member, at least no more than Jennifer Lopez looked like a housecleaner in “Maid in Manhattan,” and the incongruities only multiply as you get to know her. She’s the daughter of Chinese immigrants, a neurobiologist and an oncologist, and her original career plan was to be not the scientist or lawyer you might expect from such a lineage but a potter.
Asian Americans have always been involved in politics and activism, and their participation has increased significantly over the past few years. But this involvement has done little to dislodge the perception of community organizer as an unlikely career for Asian Americans—a testimony to the power of the model minority myth. The myth feeds into the media frenzy that privileges the representation of tiger moms, and denies the labor of domestic workers that makes it possible for the “tiger mom” to sucessfully “juggle” career and children. Poo’s organization fights for the rights of domestic workers, who are mostly immigrants, women, and racial minorities.
There are interesting parallels between the details that Ehrenreich draws on to write about Ai-jen Poo and Lizzie Widdicombe’s profile of Bhairavi Desai, the executive director of yellow-taxi drivers’ union New York Taxi Workers Alliance, in The New Yorker issue of April 18, 2011. Like Ehrenreich, Widdicombe chronicles Desai’s struggles in terms of organizing employees in an industry where individuals work for themselves rather than in a shared workplace. The taxi drivers are mostly men, immigrants from South Asia and Africa, and the task of organizing them includes navigating racial strife. Both Poo and Desai arrive at their advocacy roles through their academic background in women’s studies. The profiles also note that Poo’s and Desai’s presence in labor activism carries the element of unexpectedness on account of both their race and gender. Widdicombe writes the following about Bhairavi Desai:
The T.W.A. first came to prominence in 1998, when Desai initiated a strike that, to protest new rules imposed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, kept most of the city’s twelve thousand yellow cabs off the street for a day. Since then, her group has grown, and it now claims fifteen thousand members, almost a third of the city’s licensed cabdrivers. Desai can often be seen on the local news, or at public hearings, making passionate arguments on behalf of cabdrivers that are seasoned with statistics and left-wing rhetoric. She is an anomaly in the male-dominated taxi industry (she has a degree in women’s studies and history from Rutgers). A girlish thirty-eight, she is five feet two, with big eyes and a high-pitched voice (72).
So the next time people ask me about the “wealthy and professionally-qualified” Asian American doctors and engineers that they encounter everywhere, I will be happy to point out these latest media profiles of women labor organizers, two recent additions to a long but mostly invisible history of Asian American activism. And then perhaps I can imagine the day when tiger organizers’ work would be considered not anomalous but significant, valid and visible, and as much a marker of Asian American success as wealth and professional qualifications.
Posted in Magazines, Miscellaneous, TV & Media | Tagged: Ai-jen Poo, Asian American Activists, Asian American Labor, Asian Americans in Media, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bhairavi Desai, Lizzie Widdicombe, Model Minority | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on May 2, 2011
Mary Grabar’s essay in Minding the Campus, “Writing Teachers: Still Crazy After All These Years,” elicited a particularly unpleasant response in me…>> Her essay reflects on the Conference on College Composition and Communication, which she recently attended.
Reading her essay reminded me of all the English instructors who uncritically teach composition at universities without advocating critical thinking skills within their students. Also, the fact that she seems offended by critiques of whiteness in composition and rhetoric also undermines her overall argument regarding grammar as she is furthering her own agenda regarding what should and should not be taught in composition.
I suppose there are two camps, which I am going to denote as Grammar and Context. Grabar (along with Stanley Fish) falls on the Grammar side. In these two camps, there is a war between Grammar and Context where each believes the other is a necessary evil that needs to be destroyed. I know this sounds harsh but most of these kinds of conversations tend to pick one over the other. It’s a shame.
I propose a necessary mediation between the two: Grammar with Context. Why not teach both and isn’t teaching both the reality of most composition programs? Can rules of grammar only be taught in conjunction with canonical English texts? Can’t they be applied to other contexts? Should we force all English instructors to be drones of the “proper” English language and teach only “proper” English texts that are approved by academe?
The comments (especially by parents who don’t have clue and want their kids to follow suit) are hilarious. If parents want their kids to learn Shakespeare rather than composition, why don’t they force their kids to take a Shakespeare class? If parents think that only composition instructors are responsible for the downward spiraling education in this country, they need to educate themselves before casting stones.
Posted in Conferences, State of Academia | Tagged: Composition, Conference on College Composition and Communication, Mary Grabar, Minding the Campus | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 27, 2011
The Chronicle recently published an article on paranoia and graduate study…>>
Even though the article minimizes the paranoia that students feel (in some way) by putting the burden on the grad student, I think it’s important to realize that “paranoia” is built into the system and is above all, destructive to academic work. Maybe removing tenure, in other words, god-complexes that feed off graduate student paranoia, the system will place value on graduate student work rather than unproductive judgments that aim to minimize their contribution to higher education.
Posted in State of Academia | Tagged: Chronicle of Higher Education, Graduate School, graduate student | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 22, 2011
Huma Bhabha’s sculpture and art work exhibit at Chicago’s Rhona Hoffman Gallery runs through May 14. Bhabha’s intriguing sculptures, made with found and inexpensive materials such as Styrofoam and chicken wire, are representations of both the grotesque and the fantastical. Her work bears witness to the histories of colonialism and war…more>>
Huma Bhabha was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and currently lives and works in Poughkeepsie, New York. Her work is included in numerous collections including those at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Saatchi Gallery, London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Posted in Arts | Tagged: Chicago Arts, Huma Bhabha, Rhona Hoffman Gallery, South Asian Artist | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 21, 2011
The media has reported that Dharun Ravi is facing a 15-count indictment regarding the suicide of Tyler Clementi. He has been charged on accounts of bias, invasion of privacy, and witness and evidence tampering…>>
There are a lot of different kinds of conversations that this has invoked and I think that the outcome of his trial will determine the boundaries that we want to set up in the virtual world. He will be tried for his crimes, go to jail, not go to jail, or be forced to pay some other penalties. For me, the case is bigger than Ravi and sentencing — it’s really about boundaries and what they mean in our virtual world.
People valorize social media (Tweeting, Facebook, etc) without really knowing that there’s a dark side to it. It’s not just about “connecting” with every random person you can, it’s also about recognizing that individual and social rights still need to be present and tangible in our virtual reality.
Posted in TV & Media | Tagged: Dharun Ravi, Rutgers, Tyler Clementi | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 20, 2011
Author Lac Su will be reading from his memoir, I Love Yous Are for White People, today at UIC’s Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, from 4-6. For more on this event…>>
I know this is a late posting of the event but I think it’s going to be an interesting discussion. He’s also previously written an article on CNN about Tiger parenting and the emotional damage it has caused him…>>
Although Chua rubbed me (and most of the nation) the wrong way (you can look up previous posts), something valuable did come out of her publication. There’s more awareness of the costs that are incurred by “model minority” hype. Many Asians fall for this stereotype themselves, but few want to look into their past and delve into their family histories in order to see what kinds of emotional, psychological, physical and mental toll it takes.
Posted in Books, Chicago Literary Scene | Tagged: AARCC, Amy Chua, CNN, Lac Su, Memoir | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 6, 2011
The 16th Annual Asian American Showcase is screening films at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago through April 14, 2011. The film festival’s schedule over the next week includes Iris Shim’s The House of Suh, Helie Lee’s Macho Like Me, Chuck Mitsui’s One Kine Day, and Rasaka Theater Company’s brief tribute to Bollywood. You can find the details for Asian American Showcase here.
Posted in Films/Documentaries | Tagged: Asian American Cinema, Asian American Showcase, Chicago Events | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on April 5, 2011
Asian American Writers’ Workshop and Hyphen are accepting submissions for their 2011 Asian American Short Story Contest. The winner of the contest will receive a $1000 cash prize along with publication in Hyphen. The deadline is May 16. For more information, visit http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/shortstory or http://www.aaww.org.
Posted in Magazines, Miscellaneous | Tagged: Asian American Writers' Workshop, Hyphen, Short Story Contest | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on March 13, 2011
Karen Tei Yamashita will be reading from her latest offering I Hotel, and will participate in a conversation and book signing, along with authors Audrey Niffeneger and Gerard Woodward, on Tuesday, March 15, 2011 at 6p.m. at Harold Washington Library Center…more>>
Yamashita will also be in conversation with Alexis Pride the following day, Wednesday, March 16 at 1p.m….more>>
Both these events are a part of Columbia College’s 15th Annual Story Week Festival of Writers: Class Acts.
You can find our recent “Conversation” about Yamashita’s novel Tropic of Orange here.
Posted in Books, Chicago Literary Scene | Tagged: Chicago Literary Event, Karen Tei Yamashita, Story Week Festival of Writers, Tropic of Orange | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on March 10, 2011
NPR gives voice to the plight of Muslim Americans who cross U.S. borders…>>
While the article is certainly interesting (and nothing new in the state of affairs for Muslim Americans or those who appear Muslim), I think the picture they have posted captures it all. A white, male, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, looking larger than life itself, polices the border. While his formidable expression, determined gait, and giant presence may make Americans feel more secure, it presents a threatening figure for the Others that want to encroach upon American soil.
Posted in Miscellaneous, TV & Media | Tagged: Borders, NPR | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on March 9, 2011
SM: I first read Yamashita’s book Tropic of Orange during my first semester as a graduate student. Every time I have read it again, I have experienced new pleasures in its complexity. Yamashita’s deeply entangled web of the narratives of seven characters spanning seven days belies the order and coherence of the grid of “Hypercontexts,” with which the book opens up. The book presents complex, overlapping and ever-changing mapping grids as the dominant metaphor for the American multicultural city in the moment of globalization. Manzanar has the following vision of the city: “There are maps and there are maps and there are maps. The uncanny thing was that he could see all of them at once, filter some, pick them out like transparent windows and place them even delicately and consecutively in a complex grid of pattern, spatial discernment, body politic” (Yamashita 57). If the global city’s realities are magical, how do we read this novel: as a realist or a magical realist representation?
SD: There are many scholars who argue against a dichotomous and antithetical relationship between the real and magical. For example, Kum Kum Sangari in “The Politics of the Possible,” makes the connection between the real, the marvelous, and the truth. She says: “If the real is historically structured to make invisible the foreign locus of power, if the real may thus be other than what is generally visible, if official versions are just as visible and visibly ‘real’ as unofficial versions, and if even the potentially real is a compound of the desired and the undesirable, than marvelous realism tackles the problem of truth at a level that reinvents a more acute and comprehensive mode of referentiality” (163). This statement can easily be applied to Tropic of Orange where the distinction between real and marvelous or magical cannot be made with regards to the experience of internment, mobility, labor, and imperialism. Manzanar, for all purposes, simultaneously exists within and outside of the grid due to the historical and official invisibility of internment. The lack of linearity that his figure invokes alludes to a different kind of historical consciousness.
SM: It is interesting that the elements that make readers think of the novel as a magical realist one are manifested in its spatial representations: from the above example of Manzanar’s ability to visualize multiple maps at the same time, to Rafaela’s experience of the “elasticity of the land and of time” as she sees Gabriel’s property walls as “not straight,” and Arcangel’s pushing the Tropic of Cancer “ever northward” by means of “hooks and cables” in his skin (Yamashita 150, 152, 212). Parallel to your point that Yamashita does not portray the marvelous and the “real” as opposed categories, I would also suggest that in her representation of L.A. as the global city, she refuses “utopia” and “dystopia” as binary opposites. The freeway crisis in the novel illustrates this point. The space of the freeway is crucial to the geography of a city that wants to be a serious participant in globalization (Yamashita 82). When the freeway is brought to a standstill by an accident that brings together disparate plot elements, it is understood as chaos and disorder of dystopia by the car owners who are forced to abandon their cars and incur economic loss. But what is seen as crisis by the state and the wealthy is seen as utopia by the homeless, for whom the crisis presents an opportunity to claim for themselves the urban space that is responsible for their displacement and homelessness.
Yamashita’s compelling characters come from various racial backgrounds. But I wonder if it is taught as much in other ethnic studies courses as it is in Asian American Studies courses. Is there something in the text, besides the author’s racial heritage, that marks the text as Asian American? Also, Yamashita represents a moment when multiculturalism was still cool? Do you think we are beyond that moment in our culture and literature?
SD: Your insightful inquiries regarding multiculturalism and its tangibility in the present moment has prompted me to reconsider the years since Yamashita published her novel. In the context of the Pacific coast, multiculturalism may still resonate because the population stems from a history of internal colonization, regional imperialism, and border crossings. The sheer visibility of these histories in that region may positively impact the literary and cultural production that invokes images of Latino immigration into the United States. Recently, Alex Rivera produced a film titled, Sleep Dealer (2008), which deals with virtual labor and a global digital network that cuts across borders. We will continue to see these kinds of representations about the influx of different kinds of subjects in the United States; however, I don’t think that these representations will necessarily lead people to think about their linkages with multiculturalism.
Also, precisely because of varying histories, certain cultures are granted more space in the American imaginary. While Yamashita focuses heavily on trafficking between Mexico and California, I don’t think she is widely read in Latin American courses. This is certainly a problem of stereotyping where the author’s ethnicity hinders the reception of the novel.
Although I hope that we are not “beyond” multiculturalism in the United Sates, cultural and ethnic differences seem to either be contained within rigid structures or negated completely. Isn’t this exactly what Yamashita counters with the powerful image of an orange that links different geographical spaces and people across non-linear time?
Yamashita, Karen Tei. Tropic of Orange. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1997.
Posted in Books, Conversations, Literary Criticism, Literature, Miscellaneous | Tagged: Alex Rivera, Asian American, Books, Globalization, Immigration, Karen Tei Yamashita, Kum Kum Sangari, Latin American, Magical Realism, Realism, Sleep Dealer, Tropic of Orange | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on March 1, 2011
Since we are talking about libraries on this blog today, from “The Book Bench,” here is a brief history of Chicago Publishers Gallery, a city literary treasure. The gallery aims to carry books and periodicals from every publisher in the city and the works of all authors from Chicago and Illinois. The room full of wonders seems straight out of a fantasy novel:
The two women [Lois Weisberg and Danielle Chapman] secured a room inside the Chicago Cultural Center, a landmark building with sweeping staircases and massive glass domes, and created what is now the Chicago Publishers Gallery, a twenty-three-hundred-volume collection of Windy City print. With its adjoining café and veined marble walls, the gallery feels as though it’s part Starbucks, part library, part crypt.
While the space is physically located in Chicago, its literary holdings attest to the global dimensions of the city: “…true to the boundaryless nature of publishing, for every Chicago-related book there are fifteen far-flung others: ‘Chinese Sculpture,’ ‘60,001+ Best Baby Names,’ ‘Album of the Damned: Snapshots from the Third Reich.’”
Posted in Books, Chicago Literary Scene | Tagged: Chicago Publishers Gallery, Literary Chicago | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on March 1, 2011
Hari Kunzru’s post on the library as a relic adds a nice element to my last post on the Kindle…>>
He reminisces about the meaning a library had for him as a child and the excitement of getting that first library card. Obviously, if E-Books take the place of libraries (and not just bookstores), then the experience of discovery changes. Already, during the course of the past decade, my academic research takes place not in university libraries, but on my computer, in my master bedroom. The digitalization of archives and out of print books makes it unnecessary to travel 25 miles to my university in order to make an argument. There is something lost — besides the lack of sunlight — and that loss is not easy to explicate.
Roaming the halls of a library, whether public or academic, positions a person in the center of knowledge and the possibility of acquiring, devouring, digesting, endless amount of words that have meaning. The E-book cannot replicate this experience. it’s efficiency, moreover, does not allow the leisure of roaming. It bring us right to the text.
On another level, as a mother of two young children, the library and the bookstore are not just spaces of exploration, but they are also spaces that allow community building. When I had my son (now 4), he started his first library classes at the age of 6 months. We made some lasting friendships there with other children and parents that would not have been possible otherwise.
Posted in Books, State of Academia | Tagged: E-book, Hari Kunzru, Kids, Kindle, Library | Leave a Comment »
Posted by litdaily on February 28, 2011
Last year, my husband bought me a Kindle even though I raised multiple objections. I protested that “scholars” and “academics” and anyone who’s serious about literature will not read an electronic book. I tried to explain the thrill that goes through me whenever I see a book — hardcover, paper, old, new, borrowed, bought — that’s waiting to be read, sitting on my nightstand. I thought I would be the last person in the world to advocate e-reading.
But I was wrong. Although I’ve downloaded only three books on my Kindle, I carry it in my purse and read it whenever I can. When I surf Amazon, I always look at the Kindle prices, which are half the cost. And the best part is that reading electronically hasn’t really changed my experience of reading at all. That’s why Dan Agin’s article in Huffington Post makes so much sense…more>>
Agin, who has been in the American publishing world since 1945, says that American publishing has always followed the principles of marketing and selling books. American publishing believes that people, much like what I used to believe, want to purchase books based on the “feel” of a printed book rather than the words. He states, “what the public wants is the blood and guts of the author, the contact of the reader’s mind with the author’s mind — and the most efficient vehicle for that contact is now the electronic book, the E-book.”
Posted in Books, TV & Media | Tagged: Books, E-book, Huffington Post, Kindle | 1 Comment »
Posted by litdaily on February 25, 2011
Ameya Pawar, a program assistant at Northwestern, has won the title of the first Asian American alderman in Chicago…>>
Over the past several months, there have been many “first” positions in politics that have been filled by Asian Americans. What does this political visibility mean for Asian Americans who have typically been behind the scenes, so to speak?
Posted in Miscellaneous, TV & Media | Tagged: Alderman, Ameya Pawar, Northwestern University, Politics | Leave a Comment »