Border Crossings

Cover of David Palumbo-Liu's Book, Asian/AmericanThis site serves as an archive of blog posts and resources for ENGL 321: Border Crossings in Asian American Literature, a Fall 2018 course at Dickinson College. It provides a space for students to reflect on the texts we’ll be reading this semester, share comments and resources, and discuss the contexts that inform our literary texts. The site also houses a dynamic bibliography featuring a range of resources which students will develop collaboratively throughout the semester. We hope you’ll follow our blog, browse the bibliography, and join our conversation. If you have any questions about this website or the course, please contact Dr. Sheela Jane Menon at


The 2012 US Census reported that Asians were the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States that year, totaling almost 19 million. As a population that has made and continues to make significant contributions to America’s history, culture, and economy, Asian Americans face ongoing socio-political struggles within the United States. These challenges have been profoundly shaped by histories of migration, changing immigration policies, as well as racial and economic tensions.

Attentive to these contexts, this course explores the various borders and border crossings that emerge across 20th and 21st century Asian American literature by writers including John Okada, Carlos Bulosan, Jhumpa Lahiri, Kazim Ali, Mia Alvar, and lê thi diem thúy. Our examination of these texts will be framed by the following questions: How do literary forms imagine and contest a variety of  borders and border crossings? How do these borders intersect with the realities of actual geopolitical borders and immigration acts? How do race, gender, citizenship, and class influence the ways in which characters and communities negotiate these borders? We will unpack how literary texts articulate diverse immigrant experiences and engage the tensions of both real and imagined border crossings. In the process, this course will also explore the very definition of “Asian American,” considering the communities that are included and excluded from this collective, as well as their specific socio-political histories.

Given this focus, this course requires especially thoughtful engagement with diverse and difficult points of view. Our classroom and this blog will be spaces in which you should feel challenged to reexamine your own thinking, while also helping to shape a vibrant and respectful dialogue. Various perspectives and methodologies – such as critical race theory, postcolonial studies, feminism, queer theory, and popular culture – will inform our readings and discussions.