This year is the 20th Anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club, the book that, for better or for worse, defined Asian America to a generation of readers, and opened up mainstream American fiction to Asian immigrant stories. (I celebrated its 15th in an essay in Issue 4.) I say "for better or for worse" because, although it was wonderful for people of my generation -- who were reaching adulthood just as Joy Luck was hitting the bookstores -- to finally see Asian immigrant families in fiction, the book also limited a generation of writers to a particular narrative.
We don't all suffer an immigrant generation gap with our parents; many of us are 1.5s, and many of us are third generation or deeper; many of our parents are culturally competent in the US; most of us didn't grow up in Chinatowns. Half of us aren't women; we aren't all Chinese ... or Japanese, or Korean; our cultures of origin don't always center around cooking rice, or mahjong games in the kitchen, or the insulting mistakes our white boyfriends make at the dinner table; the racism we experience isn't always the blatant kind.
So, for a book that didn't intend to cause all the controversy or inspire all the ambivalence it has, I can't think of a better way to honor its birthday than to talk back. For May, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, let's tell more stories ... stories that aren't like The Joy Luck Club at all.
I'm declaring a blog carnival of short, personal Asian American immigrant narratives.
These will be YOUR families' immigration stories in 300 words or less. Very short, so don't try to tell the whole thing. Pick out one important anecdote or detail that you think is unusual. Some questions to get you started:
- What about your family's immigration experience is unusual, not like the stereotypes?
- Did your family immigrate all at once, or over several generations, and just to the US, or elsewhere? Did anyone go back?
- Did your forebear/s have a goal in immigrating? Do you think this was their only purpose?
- Did something funny or strange or sad happen when they got here?
- Has your family been here so long you've forgotten the immigrant experience? Tell us another story, then!
We're looking for a diversity of stories: East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, North Asian, women, men, transgendered people, all ages and generations, all regions of the States (and we'll fudge "American" if you're not from the States or even from North America), all kinds of stories, all ways of telling them.
Here's the process:
- Write your immigrant story of 300 words or less.
- Post it to your blog or somebody's blog.
- Post the URL in comments below, or send me the URL at claire (at the domain) hyphenmagazine (with a dot) com. If you email it, please put "Joy Luck Hub submission" in the subject line of your email.
- Deadline is May 1.
- Depending on a number of factors, we might reprint a few here on Hyphen Blog (with permission). Or we might not.
Please post questions, comments and suggestions below in comments ... and PLEASE FORWARD THIS CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS TO YOUR ASIAN AMERICAN FRIENDS!
Folks, start your engines.