Chou: Asian American Literature Shows Culture, Generation Difference

Current Asian-American literature represents intergenerational and cultural conflicts, according to Eva S. Chou '70.

More than 30 people gathered at Radcliffe's Bunting Institute last night to hear Chou, a professor at Trinity College in Connecticut, speak as part of the Bunting's Society of Institute Fellows Colloquium.

Using well-known books to bolster her arguments, Chou cited both Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club and David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly as indicative of the widening gap between today's Asian-American writers and their parents.

The most exotic elements in modern Asian-American works can be attributed to older generations' "preoccupation with the past," Chou said, explaining that younger Asian-Americans were more likely to draw their own inspirations from American culture.

Chou went on to question whether the recent boom in Asian-American literature was due to genuine recognition of Asian-Americans' artistic talents or whether Asian-American writers were simply a source of exotic interest for mainstream culture.


"Is Asian-American literature providing `Orientalia' for the intelligentsia?" Chou asked, echoing a statement made by Hwang.

During the question and answer session that followed the speech, an audience member asked what Chou felt was the best way to approach Asian-American literature in today's curricula.

Chou responded that Asian-American literature is a "subdivision [of American literature], analogous to Puerto Rican-American, Jewish-American, or Italian-American literature."

"It's written in English," Chou said, indicating her belief that Asian-American literature should not be isolated.

Chou received her Ph.D from Harvard in 1984, and was a Bunting Institute Fellow from 1991 to 1992.