Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction
Essays exploring how Asian American adolescents form identity in YA fiction
Contributions by Hena Ahmad, Linda Pierce Allen, Mary J. Henderson Couzelis, Sarah Park Dahlen, Lan Dong, Tomo Hattori, Jennifer Ho, Ymitri Mathison, Leah Milne, Joy Takako Taylor, and Traise Yamamoto
Often referred to as the model minority, Asian American children and adolescents feel pressured to perform academically and be disinterested in sports, with the exception of martial arts. Boys are often stereotyped as physically unattractive nerds and girls as petite and beautiful. Many Americans remain unaware of the diversity of ethnicities and races the term Asian American comprises, with Asian American adolescents proving to be more invisible than adults. As a result, Asian American adolescents are continually searching for their identity and own place in American society. For these kids, being or considered to be American becomes a challenge in itself as they assert their Asian and American identities; claim their own ethnic identity, be they immigrant or American-born; and negotiate their ethnic communities.
The contributors to Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction focus on moving beyond stereotypes to examine how Asian American children and adolescents define their unique identities. Chapters focus on primary texts from many ethnicities, such as Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, Vietnamese, South Asian, and Hawaiian. Individual chapters, crossing cultural, linguistic, and racial boundaries, negotiate the complex terrain of Asian American children’s and teenagers’ identities. Chapters cover such topics as internalized racism and self-loathing; hypersexualization of Asian American females in graphic novels; interracial friendships; transnational adoptions and birth searches; food as a means of assimilation and resistance; commodity racism and the tourist gaze; the hostile and alienating environment generated by the War on Terror; and many other topics.
"Essays focus on the complex negotiations young Asian Americans must make as they attempt to create unique identities while straddling the line between their Asian (a term that some contributors label as problematic because of its generalization of racial and ethnic identities) backgrounds and how they see themselves within mainstream American culture, which treats their ethnicity as either invisible or exotic. "- The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The collection’s emphasis on agency and interstitiality as empowering, rather than as disenfranchising, is one of its many strengths. . . . Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction easily achieves its purpose of centering Asian American YA literature, and in so doing, the collection offers insightful and nuanced considerations into the diverse representations of Asian America teens in contemporary young adult literature. It makes a valuable, original, and much needed contribution to our field. "- Miranda A. Green-Barteet, The Lion and the Unicorn, Volume 43, Number 3, September 2019
"Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction is a priceless, authentic, and contributes significantly to the body of work for young adult literature. Moreover, it is a vital addition to childhood, racial, and ethnic studies. "- Mantra Henderson, Mississippi Valley State University, Journal of Ethnic American Literature Issue 10, 2020
"The experiences that make up Asian American childhoods are complex and rich, and a fast-growing body of fiction, ranging from novels to comics, is emerging that reflects this richness. The essays in Growing Up Asian American in Young Adult Fiction call much-needed and illuminating attention to this fiction, and in the process explore what this fiction has to say not only about Asian Americans but about how we understand childhood and the processes of growing up in a country undergoing dramatic demographic changes. This is an important addition to both the study of race and ethnicity and to child studies. "- Min Hyoung Song, author of The Children of 1965: On Writing, and Not Writing, as an Asian American