Multiraciality in Asian American Literature: A Literary and Pedagogical Study of Lisa See

Campbell, Katherine, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Rody, Caroline, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

Lisa See is a phenotypically White woman who has found popular success as a Chinese American author writing about Chinese and Chinese American characters. See’s appearance, though, often causes both readers and critics to react negatively to her writing and the idea of her authorship. This thesis therefore uses See’s unique authorship as the primary example in investigating the impacts that cultural expectations about authenticity, authority, and “ethnic” authorship have on writers of “ethnic” literature and receptions of their work. Little scholarship has been published about See, and many scholars and popular critics who do discuss her criticize her work as Orientalist or dismiss her work as Chinese American literature. This paper suggests that understanding and analyzing See as a multiracial author – not a White or Chinese American author – best allows for a nuanced understanding of her authorial choices. Additionally, this thesis argues that teaching See’s works in college literature courses by using a combination of Megan Boler’s pedagogy of discomfort and Henry Giroux’s border pedagogy may help guide students in critically investigating complexities of race, ethnicity, and personal identity. By leading students to more nuanced understandings of race, ethnicity, and multiraciality, we may better prepare informed and responsible student-citizens who can revolutionize cultural notions of race and ethnicity.

MA (Master of Arts)
Mixed Race, Multiracial, Asian American, American literature, Lisa See, Pedagogy of Discomfort, Border Pedagogy, Authority, Authenticity, Ethnic literature
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