Cities of Others

Reimagining Urban Spaces in Asian American Literature

Xiaojing Zhou

  • Published: 2014
  • Subject Listing: Asian American Studies; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 344 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Asian American literature abounds with complex depictions of American cities as spaces that reinforce racial segregation and prevent interactions across boundaries of race, culture, class, and gender. However, in Cities of Others, Xiaojing Zhou uncovers a much different narrative, providing the most comprehensive examination to date of how Asian American writers - both celebrated and overlooked - depict urban settings. Zhou goes beyond examining popular portrayals of Chinatowns by paying equal attention to life in other parts of the city. Her innovative and wide-ranging approach sheds new light on the works of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese American writers who bear witness to a variety of urban experiences and reimagine the American city as other than a segregated nation-space.

Drawing on critical theories on space from urban geography, ecocriticism, and postcolonial studies, Zhou shows how spatial organization shapes identity in the works of Sui Sin Far, Bienvenido Santos, Meena Alexander, Frank Chin, Chang-rae Lee, Karen Tei Yamashita, and others. She also shows how the everyday practices of Asian American communities challenge racial segregation, reshape urban spaces, and redefine the identity of the American city. From a reimagining of the nineteenth-century flaneur figure in an Asian American context to providing a framework that allows readers to see ethnic enclaves and American cities as mutually constitutive and transformative, Zhou gives us a provocative new way to understand some of the most important works of Asian American literature.
Xiaojing Zhou is professor of English at the University of the Pacific.

"No other book has provided as sustained and wide-ranging a discussion on figures of urban space in Asian American literature."
-Juliana Chang, author of Inhuman Citizenship: Traumatic Enjoyment and Asian American Literature

"Opens up a new area for discussion in Asian American writing and moves criticism on Asian American literature into a dialogue with the issues germane to contemporary American fiction in general."
-Rocio G. Davis, author of Relative Histories: Mediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs


Introduction Contested Urban Space

1. "The Woman about Town": Transgressing Raced and Gendered Boundaries in Sui Sin Far's Writings
2. Claiming Right to the City: Lin Yutang's Chinatown Family
3. "Our Inside Story" of Chinatown: Fae Myenne Ng's Bone
4. Chinatown as an Embattled Pedagogical Space: Frank Chin's Short Story Cycle and Donald Duk
5. Inhabiting the City as Exiles: Bienvenido N. Santos's What the Hell for You Left Your Heart in San Francisco
6. The City as a "Contact Zone": Meena Alexander's Manhattan Music
7. "The Living Voice of the City": Chang-rae Lee's Native Speaker
8. Mapping the Global City and "the Other Scene" of Globalization: Karen Tei Yamashita's Tropic of Orange

Conclusion The I-Hotel and Other Places


"Zhou expands the intellectual horizon by moving beyond the critique of ethnic enclave as simply space of marginalization and by arguing that Chinatown mutually constitutes and transforms the US city and provides an alternative space for Asian American everyday practice as well as reimagining of a national subject. . . . Highly recommended."