Course Bibliography

This page will feature a collaborative bibliography inspired by the course’s primary (literary) texts (listed below). For Units II-V, students will upload one secondary source to this section of the blog, with an accompanying annotation. Students must include a link to the secondary source (article, interview, audio/visual clip, news coverage, literary scholarship, etc.) relevant to one of the primary texts in each unit. Each annotation should include a brief (paragraph-length) reflection introducing the resource, explaining its relevance to the selected primary text, and developing productive connections between them. Students should include their initials at the end of their entry.

Unit I: Flashpoints in Asian American Studies

Madeline Hsu, Asian American History: A Very Short Introduction (2017)

Lisa Lowe, “Immigration, Citizenship, Racialization,” Immigrant Acts (1996)

David Palumbo-Liu, “Introduction,” Asian/American (1999)

Cathy Schlund-Vials, “Crisis, Conundrum, & Critique,” Flashpoints for Asian American Studies (2017)

Chin et al, “Preface” Aiiieeeee! (1975)

Song, “Asian American Literature Within & Beyond the Immigrant Narrative,” The Cambridge Companion to Asian American Literature (2015)


Unit II: Literary Origins, Literary Futures 

John Okada, No-No Boy (1976)

Carlos Bulosan, “I Want the Wide American Earth” (Carlos Bulosan & His Poetry, 1952)

Mia Alvar, “Kontrabida” (In the Country, 2015)

Nguyen, Sophia. “A Conversation with Mia Alvar ’00.” Harvard Magazine, 7 Aug. 2015,

For my secondary source I have chosen Harvard Magazine’s interview with Mia Alvar. The interview follows a reading on her novel, In the Country, Alvar held on July 22, 2015 at Harvard Bookstore, a place she frequently visited when she was a student. When asked about her migration as a child, Alvar notes her move to Bahrain stemmed from her parents “want[ing] some distance from the house where they raised” her brother who recently passed away. I noted this quote as a connection to displacement, a theme explored throughout Alvar’s book. Specifically in “The Kontrabida,” we spoke in class about Steve’s displacement in his childhood home when he returns as an adult. Steve states, “Once more, I felt like an ogre in a dollhouse” (Alvar 7). He has become a huge, bumbling force disrupting a delicate image of family life which he has outgrown. To end her interview, Alvar speaks on “The Kontrabida” and how it emerged from a personal visit to the Philippines. Alvar states, “the sari-sari store that had been added to my childhood home… things that must have seemed normal to me as a kid, but were completely alien and arresting by the time I returned.” Steve takes on a similar feeling in Alvar’s work about his own family home, creating a direct parallel. This can be seen considering Steve battles with sari-sari store Alvar adds in her work. Alvar sights this visit during college as “the reason I started writing fiction.” Learning the parallels and connections between a writer and her work can help illuminate her motivations for writing, adding to this source’s relevance. Lauren T.

“Interview with Japanese Internment Camp Survivor.” YouTube, uploaded by Adam Hammond, Google, 9 May
2014, Accessed 6 Oct. 2018.

With a novel that delves so closely into a very important part of American history, I wanted to find a way to ground it into reality more effectively than a history lesson could – Something more personal. This interview with an elderly survivor of a Japanese Internment Camp brings the events of the novel closer to reality and allows viewers to pull similarities between the experiences of the man being interviewed, Timothy Tiara. At the 21 minute mark, the interviewer begins to ask Tiara if he recalled any specific actions of discrimination he experienced after returning home from the camps, and Tiara goes into great detail: “Well yes, um, you-you feel it all the time, uh, the parents naturally felt it more than we did, they couldn’t go wherever they wanted. Dad was a doctor (…) and he couldn’t purchase a car, no one would sell him a car” (Tiara, 2014, 21:49). Tiara’s statement “you feel it all the time” aligns closely with Ichiro Yamada’s tensed, nervous internal dialogue and constant fear of hatred and rejection that he grapples with during the novel. This particular interview response also raises additional questions, such as prompting a closer look and the stressors that Ichiro’s father and mother may have been facing at the store based on Tiara’s note that his father experienced worse marginalization than he did. Perhaps the novel’s focus on Ichiro may have turned a blind eye to the life of his parents working the store and is a large part of why their relationship sours so quickly. Joe D.

Gribben, Bryn. “The Mother That Won’t Reflect Back: Situating Psychoanalysis and the Japanese Mother in ‘No-No Boy.’” MELUS, vol. 28, no. 2, 2003, pp. 31–46. JSTOR, JSTOR,  

This academic article is a secondary source that delves into a psychoanalytical reading of John Okada’s No-No Boy. In the article, author Bryn Gribben examines the ways in which the psyche functions in a novel that is rich with inner turmoil and conflicts between human minds. Gribben specifically focuses on “psychoanalytical discourse [that] floats like a ghost through No-No Boy” (Gribben 44) by highlighting Ichiro’s strife, the madness of Mrs. Yamada, historical & societal effects on the characters, parenthood, and identity. Using various excerpts from the book as well as the literary devices present such as imagery and symbolism, Gribben sets up a discourse that provides insight on the novel from a different perspective. This secondary source thus connects to the primary text of John Okada’s No-No Boy as it breaks down the actions and dialogue of the characters and explains how their choices influence the plot of the story. Gribben’s psychoanalytical discourse helps give insight on how one can close read No-No BoyKW.

Lei, Wenxin. “An Untenable Dichotomy: The Idea of Home in John Okada’s No-No Boy.”Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, vol. 9, no. 1, June 2015, pp. 81–93. MLA International Bibliography with Full Text. Web. 4 October 2018.

“An Untenable Dichotomy: The Idea of Home in John Okada’s No-No Boy” is an academic article by Wenxin Lei that analyzes and critiques the role of home in No-No Boy. Lei describes home in the novel as “an integral part of the action, a central site where Ichiro Yamada struggles to sort out his confused sense of belonging” (Lei 83). He explores how Ichiro’s dysfunctional home represents a typical Japanese-American situation, which is contrasted with Kenji’s ideal family life. This is exemplified by gender roles, especially when looking at the differences between Ichiro and Kenji’s fathers. Ichiro’s is described as “goddamned, fat, grinning, spineless nobody,” while Kenji’s is said to be “ “a big man, almost six feet tall and strong.” Lei then critiques Okada’s depiction in the novel that “to really resolve the problem of discrimination against Asian Americans, one must break out from the domestic ghetto and go far and wide to assimilate into America” (Lei 88-89). This relies on the myth of the ‘melting pot,’ which is problematic due to the assumption that immigrants must abandon their cultures in order to assimilate into America. Emi is described as the character that makes Ichiro believe in America again due to her optimism. This source examines No-No Boy in a critical, but necessary way. Exploring how No-No Boy embraces and criticizes assimilation helps the reader understand what exactly Okada is saying about the possibility of Asian-American acceptance. LT.

Santa Ana, Jeffrey. “Emotional Labor of Racialization: Carlos Bulosan’s Anger as a Critique of Filipino Alienation in America.” Journal of Asian American Studies, vol. 19, no. 1, Feb. 2016, pp. 75-100. EBSCOhost,

In his article “Emotional Labor of Racialization: Carlos Bulosan’s Anger as a Critique of Filipino Alienation in America,” Santa Ana situates the emotional aspects of Carlos Bulosan’s writing within a historical context, framing his work as a critique of American perceptions of Filipinos during the US colonial rule. In particular, he dissects Bulosan’s angry response to Filipino alienation in the US. This source provides both a historical and emotional context to Bulosan’s poem “I Want the Wide American Earth,” in which Bulosan expresses his dreams for the freedom of the Asian American working class. Bulosan both cites the injustices America has committed and expresses an Asian American resilience and defiance. Historically, Santa Ana frames the racial tensions in mid-1900s America with conflict between the Filipino worker and the Americans who perceive them to be an exploitable workforce, a conflict which drives Bulosan’s work. Santa Ana also provides background to Bulosan’s definition of freedom and the free, an essential element of “I Want the Wide American Earth,” explaining it as “the individual fulfillment the worker feels when he receives fair payment for his labor and takes part in collectively owning the means of production” (Santa Ana 84). By explaining the political landscape in conjunction to Bulosan’s own beliefs, Santa Ana provides a much needed context to aid in the understanding and analysis of Bulosan’s writing. KK

Hirabayashi, Lane Ryo, et al. Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens: Hikaru Iwasaki and the WRA’s Photographic Section, 1943-1945. University Press of Colorado, 2009. EBSCOhost,

While texts are, of course, essential in understanding the origins and futures of literature, photography can also be useful in fully understanding the time period and the stories that spring from it. Japanese American Resettlement Through the Lens: Hikaru Iwasaki and the WRA’s Photographic Section, 1943-1945, gives a detailed account of what it was like for those returning from internment camps through both stories and photos. After studying the meaning of home with both in Alvar’s text and Okada’s, this text gives a very different, and yet eerily similar account of what home meant to Asian Americans in the years following WWII. The photos used depict Japanese Americans as a “model minority” who emulate the qualities of an ideal American (whatever these might be). While these photos might lead one to believe that the transition home for Japanese Americans was easy and that the feeling of home in the United States was immediate, the photos are too posed and seem to try to hard to imitate the ideal American life. These photos were used almost as propaganda, to both “convince loyal Japanese Americans that it was safe to leave the camps” as well as to “to convince members of the larger public that they would be safe if loyal Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned were released” (Hirabayashi 27-28). Therefore, they can be used as just one more lens through which to view anxieties about Japanese Americans, both by Japanese Americans as well as by white Americans, in the aftermath of Japanese Internment. LS

Unit III: Writing War, Writing Self 

Ocean Vuong, “Aubade with Burning City” (Poetry Foundation, 2014)

lê thi diem thúy, The Gangster We Are All Looking For (2003)

Nam Le, “Love & Honor & Pity & Pride & Compassion & Sacrifice” (The Boat, 2008)

Obadas, Janna. “Ghostly Presences in Lê’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For.” Migration and Exile: Charting New Literary and Artistic Territories, edited by Savin Ada, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013, pp. 103 – 112. 

Within this collection of essays, Janna Obadas writes a piece on the spectral aspect of The Gangster We Are All Looking For by examining the ghostly presence of the narrator’s brother. Obadas specifically analyzes how the presence of a haunting spirit represents the characters’ connections to repression of the past, lost homelands & identities, cultural transmission, sense of (un) belonging, memory, mourning, history, and trauma. For instance, she points out that the ghost of the brother, who drowned in the ocean in Vietnam during the war, follows the narrator around in her new home in America, causing feelings of fear, pain, and confusion. Thus, the ghost is a metaphorical reminder of the narrator’s lost homeland, an awful event of the past (the drowning), and the sorrowful feelings over the loss of a loved one that have been buried deep. Furthermore, Obadas highlights the historical, political, and social context of the story (the refugee crisis caused by the Vietnam War) and the connection between these topics and the haunting ghost of the brother. Obadas investigates this link to point out how interactions with a ghostly presence leads to confronting suppressed memories of the past, struggles with a sense of belonging, identity crises, and cultural transmission. This essay is therefore directly connected to The Gangster We Are All Looking For by lê thi diem thúy as Obadas specifically focuses on the role of the brother’s ghost in the story. KW

Sato, Wataru. A Reflection on Ethnic Literature: Nam Le’s “Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice.”

In his essay, “A Reflection on Ethnic Literature: Nam Le’s ‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,’” Wataru Sato asserts that the first story in Le’s book, The Boat (2008), is “Le’s critical response to ethnic literature, its economy, and ethics” (Sato 202). The parameters and implications of “ethnic literature” is a topic we have discussed heavily in class. The expectation for authors to write about the Vietnam War exoticizes the Asian American experience. This expectation that Asian Americans will only write a particular type of story creates harmful stereotypes and issues surrounding potential publication. Sato’s essay becomes relevant because it brings a contemporary analysis of this idea by looking at ethnic literature in the context of “an era of consumerism and globalization” (Sato 202). By placing Asian American literature into a consumerist society, a writer’s ethnicity becomes a commodity. Because of these conditions that Sato proposes, “‘Love and Honor’ can be read as a contemporary cultural critique” (Sato 204). Le challenges the expectations of ethnic literature because the actual story he writes is never shown to the reader. Instead, this written story is conveyed through memories that Nam has and reveals. Sato comments that “this is an ingenious way to avoid producing a testimonial narrative of war while displaying Nam/ Le’s capabilities” (Sato 205). Thus, Le challenges and creates “a critical response” by taking a new approach to ethnic literature (Sato 202). Ultimately, Le’s innovative approach  flaunts his skills as a writer and exposes the possibilities of successful subject matter Asian American writers can produce. Lauren T. 

Do, Nguyen Mai. “Intergenerational Wound.” Cosmonauts Avenue, -. Accessed 28 Oct. 2018.

This poem investigates the longevity and lasting effects of experiences in Vietnam, specifically focusing on the ability for trauma and tramatic expereinces to fight their way through generations and generations to come. During this work, the narrator questions what price she and her family will have to pay to America before she and her family can rest, and repeatedly refers to many individuals looking to ‘eat’ her and her family. The theme of food and consuming returns at multiple points during the work, from other (Presumably Americans?) looking to ‘eat’ the narrator to the narrator having her mouth stuffed with napalm as she struggles to integrate into American society. In the work’s final stanza, the narrator mentions that this life is already beginning to affect her child as well, and that her child is already becoming accustomed to living life in fear of those around them.

This work plays off of Ocean Vuong’s Aubade with Burning City by proving an ‘aftermath’ view of the events of that poem, and suggesting that the horrors endured in Vienam are not content to stay in Vietnam. Both poems use repetition and similie to connect whiteness with ashes and death – Buring City does so through, for example, the snow on the ground, while Intergenerational Wound mentions numerous times the whiteness of bone that is being consumed by this ongoing trauma.  JD.

Le, Kyle. “Untold Stories Of The Vietnamese Boat People.” Huffington Post, 21 March 2017,

This article discusses the struggles faced by Vietnamese refugees and defines the term “boat people” with background research and interactions with Vietnamese refugees who were denied asylum. Through Le’s discussions with former refugees, he provides insight into life in wartime Vietnam, in refugee camps, and on refugee boats. Through interviews, Le shares the inhumane conditions required for survival by refugees. However, this source is useful both in providing a greater sense of context to the unit’s works by its perspective on refugees and wartime Vietnam as well as in disproving expectations about Vietnamese refugees and of the Vietnamese wartime narrative. The genre of “ethnic literature” tends to tell a specific type of story where the Vietnam War is concerned: a traumatic escape and an eventual success in the Western world. However, it is important to place these stories against a backdrop of history, where in reality, not all victims of the war were able to follow the commonly told narratives. This source provides context to The Gangster We Are All Looking For with its outline of the escape, the camp, and the processing procedure, elements vital to the narrator’s life and story. It also fits in well with “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,” helping to shine light on a narrative often passed over in the scheme of Western literature about the Vietnamese War. KK.

Pelaud, Isabelle Thuy. This Is All I Choose to Tell : History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature, Temple University Press, 2010. ProQuest Ebook Central,

This Is All I Choose to Tell, provides an in-depth look at Vietnamese American literary works and their historical contexts. It also focuses on the identities and backgrounds of Vietnamese American authors and seeks to understand what they write and why they write it. Because she believes that Vietnamese history is brushed over much of the time, Pelaud focuses first on the history and context of Vietnamese American stories more generally. She discusses the Vietnam War, the journey from Vietnam to the United States, and the treatment of Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. She then delves into analyzing the works of individual Vietnamese American writers. This work directly references The Gangster We Are All Looking For and analyzes Nam Le’s work in The Boat, though not specifically “Love & Honor & Pity & Pride & Compassion & Sacrifice.” Regardless, it will compliment all three of the primary texts for this unit, as each defines what it is to be a migrant or a refugee differently. Pelaud does not seek to define Vietnamese American literature as one single story, rather she works to find the multitudes of stories that come to define Vietnamese American identity. LS.


Unit IV: Family Ties, Family Travels 

Kazim Ali, “Hymn” (The Far Mosque, 2005), “Ramadan” (The Fortieth Day, 2008)

“Home” (Bright Felon, 2009), “Poetry is Dangerous” (Orange Alert, 2010)

Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake (2003)

Friedman, Natalie. “From Hybrids to Tourists: Children of Immigrants in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.” Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, vol. 50, no. 1, 2008, pp. 111–126. EBSCOhost,

Friedman examines the roles of Gogol and Sonia, arguing that The Namesake is more than just an immigrant story. While Gogol and Sonia are the children of immigrants, Friedman notes that they themselves are “unequivocally American,” yet they still struggle to find their place (115). Friedman uses quotes from an interview with Jhumpa Lahiri in order to strengthen her argument that children of immigrants are like tourists in their own countries, never quite finding a place to belong. Introducing The Namesake as a travel narrative adds a new complexity to the understanding of transnational family relationships. Unlike our previous units, there is no sense of displacement for Gogol in The Namesake. However, there is still a crisis of identity and a lack of belonging and this source can be used to explore Gogol’s relationship with each life he leads. LS

Christopher Hennessy, and Kazim Ali. “An Interview with Kazim Ali.” The American Poetry Review, no. 5, 2013, p. 28.

This source is an interview with Kazim Ali from 2013 following the publication of his collection Bright Felon: Autobiography and Cities. Ali talks about “poetics of silence,” and how his sexuality led to his silence due to fear of backlash from his family and society. He also discusses his inspirations, particularly Emily Dickinson, because she “could express her heart’s dearest wish but pull back from a full identification with it.” This adds new context to the Ali poems we read in class, as they all felt more observational than personal. Ali’s poems are less obvious than others, making it possible for readers to add their own interpretations. Another interesting part of the interview is when Ali says, “What I’m interested in is the exploration of the body and desire as a self-actualizing or fulfilling component on the individual’s life journey instead of as a part of the social, political or economic structure of a “society” or “civilization.” In this sense all desire is queer desire because it moves against these mechanisms of control. The hard part, the painful part, is for us ourselves to learn how to love one another, have affection for one another, support and be kind to one another.” My final project is about queer Asian American literature, so his perspective of his role as a queer Asian-American writer is useful. He surprisingly does not like to write about his sexuality from a political perspective, but rather personal experience. Lily T.

Mary, S.Alphonsa, and V. Peruvalluthi. “Psychological Conflict in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.” Language in India, vol. 18, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 264–268. Communication & Mass Media Complete,

In the article, Psychological Conflict in Jumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake,” S. Alphonsa Mary and V. Peruvalluthi explore the different psychological conflicts between first generation and second generation immigrants, focusing specifically on Lahiri’s characters of Ashima and Gogol. Ashima clings to her past life in Indian, which directly contrasts her new life in America. This contrast isolates and dislocates Ashima, the main psychological conflict the character experiences. When talking about the hospital Ashima stays in after giving birth to Gogol, the article reveals, “She is being an Indian traditional woman who has been used to live in a joint family and who, like other Indian women, is very much in the habit of speaking and sharing their thoughts” (Mary and Peruvalluthi 267). The birth of her first child, a moment which should be filled with joy, has suddenly become one of loneliness and remorse. Ashima must give up her ways as “an Indian traditional woman” because she has no one to celebrate or “shar[e] [her] thoughts” with (Mary and Peruvalluthi 267). Additionally, Gogol struggles with isolation and loneliness, but for radically different reasons from his mother. The article shifts its focus to second generation immigrants. Gogol, who has a stable homeland, unlike his mother, equally struggles with isolation. However, his psychological conflicts are tied to his name. Mary and Peruvalluthi reveal, “Gogol faced problems in his name which was neither American nor Indian, but Russian, which symbolizes the problem of identity” (267). The struggle with identity is a theme we have been studying throughout the semester. For Gogol, he rebels against traditional expectations in attempts to form an identity for himself, considering his name does not provide one for him. For example, “Gogol refuses to study immigrants’ favorable subjects like Physics, Chemistry, or Engineering and he prefers to study architecture” (Mary and Peruvalluthi 267). Lahiri’s novel often fixates on categories or expectations. Gogol’s decision to choose an unexpected career path reveals the difference between immigrant generations. Ultimately, Mary and Peruvalluthi end their article with, “Lahiri’s work is an eye opener to the Indian residing outside India because their unadulterated love for their former mother land in subtle and unimaginable ways interferes with the cares and future of their children” (268). The interconnected nature of generations reveals that despite different psychological roots, similar effects and struggles often linger. This connects to our course in the sense that historical flashpoints from previous generations often linger and impact stories of contemporary Asian American writers, thus, creating categories writers often feel obligated to maintain or transform. Lauren T.

Valkeakari, Tuire. “‘Railway Spine,’ Trains, Migration, and Mobility in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews, vol. 28, no. 3–4, 2015, pp. 202–207,

In this academic article, author Tuire Valkeakari focuses on Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, specifically examining the connection of the trope of railway travel to the Ganguli family’s experiences as immigrants in the United States. Valkeakari argues that it is worth noting reading Lahiri’s novel “of the immigration experience of the train crash survivor Ashoke in conjunction with the late nineteenth-century notion of ‘railway spine,’ regardless of whether a dialogue with this now almost-forgotten medical concept…was Lahiri’s authorial intent” (Valkeakari 202). Valkeakari defines the medical condition of “railway spine” as an “early predecessor of the diagnostic label of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)” (Valkeakari 202). She suggests how Lahiri’s decision for Ashoke Ganguli to have a near death experience on a train was not a coincidence as the name and effects of this symptom resonate with the accident, Ashoke’s recovery, and his bouts of PTSD in the United States, years after of the crash. Thus, this concept can be “associated with both the past and the present of Ashoke, a first-generation immigrant who, together with his wife, embodies the transition between the Ganguli family’s Indian past and U.S. present” (Valkeakari 202 – 3). Furthermore, the condition of railway spine “serves as a useful interpretive prism through which to examine the traumatic aspects of Ashoke’s life in the United States – namely, the first-generation exile’s initial disorientation and fear of the unexpected in his newly adopted home country” (Valkeakari 203). Valkeakari also connects railway travel to Gogol’s life of constant mobility (he uses the train to travel around for work and vacation) and how his status as a second generation immigrant is reflected through this movement because “the hopeful mobility associated with the trope of railway travel primarily takes on the meaning of the second-generation immigrant’s upward thrust in society” (Valkeakari 203). Lastly, Valkeakari writes about how these two aspects lead to an emotional moment in the novel: when Ashoke reveals to Gogol the story behind his name. This is a powerful scene as it is “a unique occasion in the father–son relationship” because it “opens up a new perspective for Gogol, a young adult in search of a meaningful Bengali-American identity” (Valkeakari 203). Such a revelation exposes Gogol to “his family history and…the extraordinary determination marking the major life decisions made by his modest and self-effacing father” (Valkeakari 203). By studying the trope of railway travel, the reader is able to use this concept as a lens to focus on the themes of immigration, mobility, identity, and family history in The Namesake. Because of this article’s exploration of literary devices in Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel as well as themes commonly seen in Asian American literature (ex: movement and immigration are prominent in The Gangster We Are All Looking For), it is a relevant secondary source that is related to our course. KW

Unit V: Culture Wars, Civil Rights

Calvin Trillin, “Have They Run Out of Provinces Yet?” The New Yorker (2016)

Adrienne Su, “The Chow-Mein Years in Atlanta” (The Margins, 2016)

Michael Luo, “An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China,” The New York Times (Oct 2016)

“#ThisIs2016: Asian-Americans Respond,” The New York Times (Oct 2016)

“Asian Americans Talk About Racism, And We Listen,” The New York Times (June 2018)

“Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie: Black Lives Matter to Us, Too,” Letters for Black Lives (July 2016)