West Indian literary representations of local Chinese populations illuminate concepts of national belonging
Searching for Mr. Chin
Constructions of Nation and the Chinese in West Indian Literature
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A title in the American Literatures Initiative.
Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Book Award, 2011
What do twentieth-century fictional images of the Chinese reveal about the construction of nationhood in the former West Indian colonies? In her groundbreaking interdisciplinary work, Searching for Mr. Chin, Anne-Marie Lee-Loy seeks to map and understand a cultural process of identity formation: "Chineseness" in the West Indies. Reading behind the stereotypical image of the Chinese in the West Indies, she compares fictional representations of Chinese characters in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana to reveal the social and racial hierarchies present in literature by popular authors such as V.S. Naipaul and Samuel Selvon, as well as lesser known writers and in less accessible literary texts.
Using historical, discursive, and theoretical frameworks for her literary analysis, Lee-Loy shows how the unstable and ambiguous belonging afforded to this middleman minority speaks to the ways in which narrative boundaries of the nation are established. In addition to looking at how Chinese have been viewed as "others," Lee-Loy examines self-representations of "Chineseness" and how they complicate national narratives of belonging.
“Searching for Mr. Chin is written with a rare clarity. Lee-Loy demonstrates a sensitivity to the texts and a familiarity with the context in which they were written. Her arguments are persuasive, and she deploys insights from a wide range of disciplines. This book will undoubtedly attract a readership in the academic world and potentially among a more broadly based readership, especially in the Chinese-Caribbean diaspora in the Americas.”