The Definition Of Asian American In Paper Menagerie By Ken Liu

842 Words 4 Pages
My parents are from Bangladesh and I was born in America. My two cultures clash, especially since I see myself more as American than Bengali. I consider myself Asian American as I am able to accept both cultures. An Asian American is an American with an Asian background who has both American and Asian influences within his or her life. Defining Asian American leads to questioning the definition of Asian American literature. Asian American literature is literature that displays Asian American elements within the work and stresses the definition of Asian American. “Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu, a work of fiction, can be considered Asian American literature because it contains many Asian American elements and displays its own definition of Asian …show more content…
Jack is an American who grew up in Connecticut with an Asian mother who “didn’t know any English” (1). Jack’s mother was his sole Chinese influence, a kidnapped orphan who ran away from her miserable life by marrying an American man. In America “no one understood [her], and [she] understood nothing” (7). She was miserable after losing all her family back in China and could not communicate with the people around her. She witnessed “shades of [her] mother, [her] father, and [herself]” on Jack’s face when he was born which reinvigorated her soul (8). Since Jack was her only reminder of her ancestry, she influenced him by exposing as much Asian culture to him as possible. Jack’s mother cooked Chinese dishes, taught Jack Chinese, and displayed origami to Jack by folding paper animals for him. She folded Jack a tiger with Christmas wrapping paper which had “red candy canes and green Christmas trees” (1). Jack’s mother did not want to be selfish and integrate only Asian …show more content…
According to Sumida and Wong, in the 1970s and 1980s, what once meant “the study of haikus and Chinese classics” now refer to “literature written by people of Asian descent in the United States.” The definition of Asian American literature has drastically changed over time and may continue to change. Like Sumida and Wong, author Karissa Chen has a similar outlook. She believes “that [a] work is APIA literature by virtue of the writer identifying as APIA.” Both of these interpretations of Asian American literature share the similarity that the author has to be APIA but this is not always true. “James Michener’s Hawaii, Arthur Golden’s Memoir of a Geisha, and most confusing of all, Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing” are all examples of books whose authors are not Asian American yet their literature is categorized under APIA literature (Karissa Chen, 3). Asian American culture is neither solely American nor Asian, so it is difficult to define. This is the case with Asian American literature, it can not seem to fit anywhere and is ever changing. Whether an author is Asian American or not, as long as they reflect Asian American elements and display their definition of Asian American within their work, it qualifies as Asian American literature. Sumida and Wong state, although Asian American literature is often used to describe the lifestyle and culture of

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