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Asian Americans in YA Literature, Stereotypes Part 1

May 7, 2007

This is a continuation of the chat were having about Asian Americans in YA Literature. For the record, I do on occasion get pedicures from Vietnamese run nail salons. At first I felt guilty, but now I see them as successful entrepreneurs who are filling a niche. I also think I know enough Vietnamese people that I don’t stereotype them as all working at nail salons. I also don’t believe that all Chinese people work in either laundries, restaurants or know kung-fu.

Gayle: All the books we like have characters who go beyond the stereotypes as actual characters, not as prefabricated ideas of a certain race
Trisha: So how many books are there that we liked? I think there are some books that I admire more than I liked.
I liked three: Fly on the Wall, Samurai Girl, and A Step From Heaven
Liked: Fly on the Wall. Admired for one reason or another, but otherwise mixed feelings: Fresh of the Boat; Nothing But the Truth… Oh, and Haters, even though the Asian girl is not the main character.
Jolene: Wait for Me, Name Me Nobody, Kiki Strike (still reading) Need to read more.
Trisha: Oh yeah, liked Name Me Nobody and Kiki Strike.
Gayle: Guess I should read Kiki Strike
Jolene: What did you think of Oona Wong?
Trisha: Oona. She’s the forger, right? I probably liked her because I got a kick out of her breaking the law so expertly.
Jolene: Yeah. But there’s some stereotypes that follow her, like they meet her in Chinatown and she ends up buying a nail salon.
Trisha: Okay, totally stereotyping here, but aren’t nail salons more Korean?
Gayle: I think they’re Vietnamese according to the stereotype.
Jolene: True, hence the Asian stereotype.
Trisha: But isn’t Oona Chinese?
Trisha: Yeah, but wasn’t the point of Mismatch that Japanese and Chinese are different? That just because you’re Asian doesn’t mean you’re like all other Asians? I know, different books. But still. Koreans and Vietnamese and Chinese are different!
Jolene: But that’s not how America sees it.
Gayle: We all eat rice!
Jolene: Maybe that’s the point.
Trisha: With chopsticks.

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