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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
October 25, 2016
Canadian Excellence


The Politics of the Visible

Eleanor Ty.  The Politics of the Visible in Asian North American Narratives.  Toronto:  University of Toronto Press, 2004.

Denise Chong * Bienvenido Santos * Mina Shum * Shirley Geok-lin Lim * Amy Tan * Wayson Choy * Cecilia Manguerra Brainard * Hiromi Goto * Bino Realuyo 

Examining nine Asian Canadian and Asian American narratives, Eleanor Ty explores how authors empower themselves, represent differences, and re-script their identities as 'visible minorities' within the ideological, imaginative, and discursive space given to them by dominant culture. In various ways, Asian North Americans negotiate daily with 'birthmarks,' their shared physical features marking them legally, socially, and culturally as visible outsiders, and paradoxically, as invisible to mainstream history and culture.


Ty argues that writers such as Denise Chong, Shirley Geok-lin Lim, and Wayson Choy recast the marks of their bodies and challenge common perceptions of difference based on the sights, smells, dress, and other characteristics of their hyphenated lives. Others, like filmmaker Mina Shum and writers Bienvenido Santos and Hiromi Goto, challenge the means by which Asian North American subjects are represented and constructed in the media and in everyday language. Through close readings grounded in the socio-historical context of each work, Ty studies the techniques of various authors and filmmakers in their meeting of the gaze of dominant culture and their response to the assumptions and meanings commonly associated with Orientalized, visible bodies.

Eleanor Ty is a professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.


0802086047 Paper $24.95 May 2004 University of Toronto Press

0802088317 Cloth $45.00 May 2004 University of Toronto Press

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements vii

Preface ix

Introduction 3

Part I. Visuality, Representation, and the Gaze

1.Writing Historiographic Autoethnography: Denise Chong's The Concubine's Children 33

2. A Filipino Prufrock in an Alien Land:

Bienvenido Santos' The Man Who (Thought He) Looked Like Robert Taylor 54

3. Rescripting Hollywood:Performativity and Ethnic Identity in Mina Shum's Double Happiness 69

Part II. Transformations Through the Sensual

4. To Make Sense of Differences:

Communities, Texts, and Bodies in Shirley Geok-lin Lim's Among the White Moon Faces 85

5. "Some Memories Live Only on Your Tongue":

Recalling Tastes, Reclaiming Desire in Amy Tan's Kitchen God's Wife 101

6. "Each Story Brief and Sad and Marvellous":

Multiple Voices in Wayson Choy's The Jade Peony 116

Part III. Invisible Minorities in Asian America

7. "Never Again Be the Yvonne of Yesterday":

Personal and Collective Loss in Cecilia Brainard's When the Rainbow Goddess Wept 137

8. "Thrumming Songs of Ecstasy":

Female Voices in Hiromi Goto's Chorus of Mushrooms 152

9. "On the Fence that was Never Finished":

Borderline Filipino Existence in Bino Realuyo's The Umbrella Country 169

Afterword 185

Notes 189

Works Cited 203

Index 219