In narratives dominated by money, exchange is the route to Asian American visibility
A Narrative of Asian American Visibility
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In the past fifty years, according to Christine So, the narratives of many popular Asian American books have been dominated by economic questions-what money can buy, how money is lost, how money is circulated, and what labor or objects are worth. Focusing on books that have achieved mainstream popularity, Economic Citizens unveils the logic of economic exchange that determined Asian Americans’ transnational migrations and national belonging.
With penetrating insight, So examines literary works that have been successful in the U.S. marketplace but have been read previously by critics largely as narratives of alienation or assimilation, including Fifth Chinese Daughter, Flower Drum Song, Falling Leaves and Turning Japanese. In contrast to other studies that have focused on the marginalization of Asian Americans, Economic Citizens examines how Asian Americans have entered into the public sphere.
"Economic Citizens contributes to current Asian American cultural criticism by identifying the language of economic exchange as a negotiating strategy in Asian American writing. So helps demystify the mistaken belief that race, gender, and class differences can by themselves refute the coercive force of commercial market, and calls attention to the disjunction between what she considers ‘a universal logic’ of economic exchange and the material circumstantiality of particular Asian American experiences."
"So carefully maps out the economic concerns and practices that inform both the themes and actions of literary narratives, and the production, circulation, and consumption of Asian American writing....So's arguments and discussion of the narratives and logics of economic exchange are compelling... Economic Citizens is an important contribution to Asian American literary studies for precisely this reason: So offers an analytical framework that may be applied across the diversity of Asian American writing."
"So deftly discusses how ‘racialized identities are constructed through the machine of capital’ and how ‘economics itself is racialized.’ Through the logic of economic exchange, So re-examines numerous ‘highly commodifiable’ Asian American novels once dismissed by critics for their assimilation bent."
"With its superb close readings, Economic Citizens is a well-argued, tightly defined work of criticism. This book will stimulate more thought-provoking research at the intersection of literature and economics in Asian American, American, and ethnic studies."
Christine So is Associate Professor of English at Georgetown University.