How race, gender, and sexuality were reimagined in the interwar encounters of Asians and Americans
East Is West and West Is East
Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America
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Between 1919-1938, contact between Asia and America forced a reassessment of the normative boundaries of race, sex, gender, class, home, and nation. Karen Kuo's provocative East Is West and West Is East looks closely at these global shifts to modernity.
In her analysis of five forgotten texts—the 1930 film East Is West, Frank Capra's 1937 version of Lost Horizon and its 1973 remake, Younghill Kang's novel East Goes West, and Baroness Ishimoto's memoir/manifesto, Facing Both Ways—Kuo elucidates how "Asia" played a role in shaping American gender and racial identities and how Asian authors understood modern America and its social, political, and cultural influence on Asia.
Kuo asserts that while notions of white and Asian racial difference remain salient, sexual and gendered constructions of Asians and whites were at times about similarity and intersections as much as they were about establishing differences.
"Long overdue, East is West and West Is East arrests an important era of cultural production by, about, and in relation to Asian Americans in the early part of the twentieth century. Kuo argues for the importance of analyzing how Asia and America look at each other and in so doing, frame their own gendered and racial subjectivities and national identities by what the other is not. The argument is convincing and necessary; a timely work that helps us understand today's encounters between these subjects-both peoples and nations."
"Kuo’s book is a distinctive and important contribution to Asian diaspora and Asian American cultural studies focusing on the first half of the twentieth century. Her analysis of historical figures and filmic and literary texts deepens the increasing transnational focus in Asian American studies and also overcomes some of the limitations of US-centered scholarship. At the same time, Kuo embeds her interpretations of iconic Japanese feminists and classic Asian American texts within American cultural, historical, and political contexts, illustrating the complex inter- and intranational discursive hegemony of that period."
"East Is West and West Is East is ostensibly about gender and race issues in the interwar period, but the intrigue of the book is Karen Kuo’s insights into the development of American modernity. She argues persuasively that the United States used Asia as a 'proxy' for American crises of modernity by limiting Asians’ ability to integrate into American society.... [I]t provides enough to allow scholars to uncover new ways of thinking about American modernity. She takes a sophisticated approach by studying females and males and by looking at the views and interactions of Asians and Americans.... innovative."
Karen Kuo is an Assistant Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.
In the series
Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Võ.
The "standard" written histories of Asian immigrants to the United States have been imbued with Western cultural biases. As a critique and corrective to earlier work, Asian American History and Culture, edited by Sucheng Chan, David Palumbo-Liu, Michael Omi, K. Scott Wong, and Linda Trinh Võ, aims to develop a history of Asian Americans that is compatible with their own experience, that treats Asian Americans as agents of historical change and as creators of a new culture. In addition, this series intends to focus on the groups that are flourishing in the contemporary U.S.Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnameseabout whom little has been written as well as to add to the substantial work done on the Chinese and Japanese in this country.