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date: 24 October 2020

The Intersections of Latina/o and Asian American Literature

Abstract and Keywords

Latina/os and Asian Americans have lived in what is now the United States for hundreds of years, yet they are often considered foreign in the national imaginary. Legally, through acts excluding Latina/os and Asians from citizenship, and socially, through targeted anti-immigration rhetoric, both groups have been racialized in the United States as outsiders. This form of racial discrimination, also called “nativistic racism,” forms the basis of several intersections of Latina/o and Asian American literature. Latina/o and Asian American literary works counter nativistic racism by emphasizing multiracial histories within the United States, by drawing attention to racial injustices, and by employing tropes of loyalty and betrayal to highlight the selective ways that the United States has defined citizenship and belonging along racial lines. Latina/o and Asian American texts may also recognize the US military interventions that brought Asians and Latin Americans to the United States as (post)colonial subjects, Cold War allies, and refugees. Some of these texts counter national narratives such as American exceptionalism and Cold War bilateralism; others protest the erasure of military actions overseas from dominant histories of the United States. In addition to suggesting comparative intersections, Latina/o and Asian American literatures also depict literal interactions when Latina/o characters feature prominently in Asian American texts and vice versa. Literature set in California and other areas with high Asian American and Latina/o populations portrays both the significant contact and common political interests between Latina/os and Asian Americans. This long history of contact appears in early texts that center on Asian American and Latina/o farmworkers; it continues in more recent literature featuring Latina/o and Asian American friendships, partnerships, and rivalries. Some Filipino texts emphasize cultural commonalities with Mexican Americans, including Spanish-language surnames and Catholicism. A final intersection of Latina/o and Asian American literature occurs in texts by authors who are both Asian and Latina/o, including Peruvians, Cubans, Mexicans, and other Latin Americans of Asian descent. Written in both English and Spanish, this literature draws attention to the transpacific connections between Asia and the Americas. While it is crucial to acknowledge the historical particularities of Latina/o and Asian American literature, as well as the diversity within each of these groups, recognizing the ways in which these literatures intersect is important to understanding cross-racial alliances of the past and potential solidarities for the future.

Keywords: Latina/o literature, Asian American literature, nativistic racism, perpetual foreigners, United States imperialism, LatinAsian, contact zones, transpacific

Alien Citizens and Perpetual Foreigners

The categories “Latina/o” and “Asian American” describe people of diverse national origin, gender and sexual identity, religion, language, and generation in the United States. Both groups may be understood as categories created in part by shared experiences of racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States and activism catalyzed by racial oppression.1 These histories of discrimination, violence, and activism are distinct and marked by significant differences. However, Latina/o and Asian American literatures also intersect in theme, overlapping contexts, and cultural blending.

Latina/os and Asian Americans are both groups who historically have been perceived as outsiders regardless of how long they or their ancestors have lived in the United States; this is a perception that has important ramifications for Asian American and Latina/o literature. In the United States, dominant racial encoding occurs along a spectrum of black and white, with sociologist Eileen O’Brien positing that Asian Americans and Latina/os form a “racial middle.”2 However, the racialization of these groups outside the black/white binary has also contributed to the erasure or elision of Asian American and Latina/o histories and the perception of Latina/os and Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners. Historian Mae M. Ngai demonstrates that Asian Americans and Mexican Americans have been subject to laws that have created the paradoxical situation of “alien citizens,” a term that refers to people with US citizenship who are nevertheless perceived as foreign.3 Extending this idea to other Latina/o groups, critic Crystal Parikh observes that structures of racism, imperialism, and immigration policies have affected Latina/os and Asian Americans by plaguing them with “images of alienness, treason, and duplicity.”4 The experience of being perceived as inherently foreign informs Asian American and Latina/o literature and constitutes a thematic intersection, as both bodies of literature contain works concerned with national belonging, loyalty, and betrayal.

Much of this literature addresses the consequences of nativism, either for the individual or for groups of Asian Americans or Latina/os. Nativism, or “nativistic racism,” may be defined as discrimination or hostility directed toward an internal minority group based on the assumption that they are un-American.5 For Asian Americans, nativistic racism is evident in laws like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and its subsequent renewals, the only set of laws ever to prohibit immigration based on race. These acts were passed on the assumption that the Chinese (and later, all Asians) were racially and culturally unable to assimilate to mainstream white values.6 Labor interests were key to the construction of Asian Americans as alien, too, as exclusion laws and anti-Chinese leagues aimed to protect “free white labor” from low-paid Chinese workers, a rhetoric later used against Latina/o migrants.7 Historically, such hostility toward Asian Americans has intensified during times of war. Legal scholar Angelo Ancheta identifies a particular form of nativistic racism he calls “patriotic racism,” a strain of racialization prominent during times of US military involvement in Asia when white Americans have felt their national integrity under threat.8 Patriotic racism was evident in the incarceration or “internment” of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, which judged Japanese Americans to be enemy aliens while exempting Americans of German or Italian descent.9

Latino/a literature, too, must contend with nativistic racism and the assumption that Latina/os are “un-American.” As Latina/o studies scholar Suzanne Oboler states, “internal social and racial group differentiations notwithstanding, people of Latin American descent in the United States have long been perceived homogeneously as ‘foreign’ to the image of ‘being American’ since the nineteenth century.”10 Especially in the years following the Civil War, dominant society increasingly defined the community of “Americans” as white and Protestant, excluding Latina/os and Asian Americans.11 Like Asian Americans, Latina/os were subject to the Nationality Act of 1790 that restricted citizenship to “free white persons,” with the later inclusion of “persons of African descent.”12 In cases such as the 1897 In re Rodriguez, Mexicans had to argue for their right to become naturalized citizens based on a black/white racial binary that was encoded into US law; as with Asian Americans in the cases Ozawa v. United States (1922) and United States v. Thind (1923), the courts initially denied citizenship because Latina/os were not white.13 In the 20th century, immigration laws compounded the perception of Latina/os as un-American by creating the category of “illegal alien.” As Ngai details, laws that prevented (and continue to prevent) Asian Americans and Mexican Americans from becoming US citizens created illegal aliens; they have also created the phenomenon of citizens who are born in the United States but remain foreign in the eyes of the nation.14 Racial violence against Latina/os, as against Asian Americans, tends to express nativism or even patriotic fervor.

Experiences of exclusion and alienation inform both Asian American and Latina/o literature. In Asian American literature, novels like Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1980), Shawn Wong’s Homebase (1979), and Frank Chin’s Donald Duk (1991) “claim America” by insisting on the importance of Asian American history. For Kingston, claiming America entails including an eight-page section of “pure history” in the middle of the book for readers who do not know the Chinese American histories of migration, labor, and exclusion.15 In Homebase, it takes the form of claiming the land itself, a theme similar to many Chicana/o texts. Homebase features Rainsford Chan, a fourth-generation Chinese American who lost his parents at a young age. Set adrift in small-town California, he tries to remember his parents through the stories they told him; he also tries to prove his Americanness by becoming an athlete and lettering in sports at his high school. Finally, Rainsford joins the Native American occupation of Alcatraz during the Civil Rights movement, where an old Indian man advises him to find the places that were important to his grandfathers’ and great-grandfather’s histories. The novel ends with Rainsford’s going forth to explore the West to claim its places for Asian Americans: “After 125 years of our life here . . . we are old enough to haunt this land.”16 Homebase protests the systematic erasure of Asian Americans from the landscape of America, the relegation of fourth-generation citizens to foreign status.

Latina/o literature, too, writes back to the idea that Latina/os are outsiders regardless of their historical continuity or legal standing in the country. Critic Maya Socolovsky argues that Latina/o literary narratives counter this separation by imagining a “collective geographical, political, and cultural presence, where Latin America becomes part of, not apart from, the political and national identity of the United States.”17 Chicana/o literature claims America by reminding readers that much of the US Southwest was once Mexican land. For example, in one of the most widely read works of Latina/o literature, Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima (1972), the novel’s setting is introduced as “Nuevo Méjico” rather than New Mexico. The protagonist, Antonio Marez, is torn between his two family legacies, his father’s vaquero heritage—generations of cattle-tending on the llanos, or plains—and his maternal lineage of farmers, who traditionally tilled the land of the valleys.18 Even as Rainsford Chan reveals the ways in which Asian Americans haunt the landscape of the American West, Antonio’s exploration of the legacies of his past marks the land and its history as Mexican.

In addition to claiming America, both Asian American literature and Latina/o literature address the particular form of nativistic racism—patriotic racism—that has led to injustices perpetrated against Asian Americans and Latina/os during times of war. Post–World War II Japanese American literature, for example, is profoundly concerned with the experience of the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps throughout the war. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and John Houston’s memoir Farewell to Manzanar (1973), Monica Sone’s memoir Nisei Daughter (1973), Miné Okubo’s illustrated novel Citizen 13660 (1946), Hisaye Yamamoto’s short story “The Legend of Miss Sasagawara” (1950), and Mitsuye Yamada’s poetry collection Camp Notes and Other Poems (1976) are just a few of the many literary texts that explore the dislocation and betrayal experienced by Japanese Americans during the internment. These texts are not limited to the United States; Joy Kogawa’s novel Obasan (1981) speaks to the similar experiences of Japanese Canadians during the war. Many Japanese American literary texts also address the difficulties of reintegrating into American society after the war. One of the earliest of these, John Okada’s novel No-No Boy (1956), concerns the infamous “loyalty questionnaire,” in which Japanese American internees were asked to prove their loyalty to the United States by answering questions including whether they forswore all allegiance to Japan and whether they were willing to serve in the armed forces. Young men who protested their incarceration by answering “no–no” endured harsh treatment from the United States and from members of their own community after the war.19

Incidents like the Los Angeles “zoot suit riots” during World War II show that Latina/os experienced patriotic racism as well. Luis Valdez’s play and film Zoot Suit (1979 and 1981, respectively) dramatize the historical experience of Latinos whose style of dress made them targets of US naval servicemen during World War II. These “riots” were not protests but incidents of violence on the part of white US naval men, who went on a rampage, stripping and beating Latinos with the tacit approval of local police. Despite the overrepresentation of Mexican Americans in the US military proportional to their population, white servicemen assumed that Latina/os were foreign and hostile to the war effort. Valdez’s play dramatizes the riots and the events that led up to them; with repeated lines like “forget the war overseas, carnal. Your war is on the homefront,” the play shows how Latina/os, like Asian Americans, were subject to domestic racism that was inextricable from expressions of patriotism during the war.20

Themes of betrayal, exclusion, and suspicion are not limited to literature about war but inform a wide range of Asian American and Latina/o texts. Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker (1995) personifies the American distrust of Asian Americans with a Korean American protagonist who is a professional spy. In this novel, Henry Park’s occupation as a spy literalizes his estranged white wife’s view of him as an “illegal alien” or “traitor”—a view that Crystal Parikh notes is crucial, given the wife’s role as cultural arbitrator of whiteness.21 Susan Choi’s novel A Person of Interest (2008) also concerns duplicity, as it focuses on the false accusation of its protagonist, Dr. Lee, as a mail bomber, a figure modeled on the Unabomber cases of the 1990s.22 Choi’s novel and the name of her protagonist recall the case of Dr. Wen Ho Lee, a Chinese American scientist arrested for allegedly selling nuclear secrets to China in 1999. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (2015) features a narrator who works as a double agent during and after the US war in Vietnam: the novel begins, “I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.”23 Meanwhile, in Américo Paredes’s George Washington Gómez (written in the 1930s), the eponymous protagonist ends the novel by becoming a professional spy for the US government. Paredes creates a protagonist whose only strategy for inclusion in dominant society is to betray his fellow Mexican Americans.24 In all of these texts, Asian American and Latina/o authors employ tropes of espionage, secrecy, or false accusations to address the nativistic racism that assumes they are foreign and unassimilable to American ways of life.

Parikh has contended that Latina/o and Asian American subjects are always read as potential traitors by an American system of racialization that insists on loyalty through assimilation, a position that places Latina/os and Asian Americans in an either/or position of betraying either the state or their “people.”25 For the Latina/o subject, the position of assimilation is defined by the pocho, an epithet that is also the title of José Antonio Villarreal’s 1959 novel about a young man who must choose between a Mexican or US American identity. Through literary memoirs such as Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982) and Eric Liu’s The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker (1998) that express the desire to “assimilate” to mainstream American culture, Parikh argues that neoconservative writers are “haunted by the(ir) raced bodies that stand at the site of contradiction from which the nation imagines its own assimilating inclusiveness.”26 Neither Latina/o nor Asian American subjects can fully discard their ethnic particularities, because assimilation is based on an idea of whiteness that is foreclosed to them.

Because Asian American and Latina/o literature exposes the contradictions at the heart of ideas like assimilation, immigration, and nativism, many theorists have claimed that these literatures are inherently oppositional or critical of US national culture. For example, cultural theorist Lisa Lowe defines Asian American culture as an “alternative formation,” its literature a dialectical critique that challenges hegemonic views about nativism and state silences around issues of violence and oppression.27 Latina/o studies theorists also define Latina/o literature and culture as critical of dominant American tropes. Juan Flores argues that a politically based “Latino imaginary” necessarily critiques US nationalist history by demonstrating its transnational scope, its construction with and against Latina/o America.28 Meanwhile, theorists like José David Saldívar posit that cultural productions from the US–Mexico border, with their insistence on mixing, resistance, and border crossing, critique linear narratives of immigration and assimilation that dominate US national culture.29 More generally, Saldívar has argued that Latina/o literature can combat a tendency toward parochialism in US literature and serve “as a more adequate and chastening form of self-knowledge,” a cultural critique that runs “against the (North) American grain.”30 For these theorists, Asian American and Latina/o literary texts demonstrate the contradictions and elisions that lie at the heart of dominant US constructions of national identity.

US Imperialism and Military Interventions in Asia and Latin America

If literary texts about nativistic racism demonstrate one contradiction at the heart of US national identity, texts engaging US imperialism and military actions abroad uncover another. A second intersection of Latina/o and Asian American literary texts is their critique of legacies of US involvement in Asia and Latin America, from the imperialist expansions of the 19th century to the overseas military operations of the 20th century. In these cases, Latina/os and Asian Americans who are considered “foreign” in the United States can trace their presence in the country directly to military operations. These texts remind readers that (im)migrants from Asia and Latin America often arrive in the United States because of US military actions overseas, a fact often elided in discourses of American exceptionalism, bilateralism, and Cold War secrecy.

In her introduction to Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993), Amy Kaplan explores the construction of American studies around the historical suppression of narratives of imperialism. Historical “moments” like the Spanish American War of 1898 and the consequent US colonization of the Philippines are seen as exceptions to a general policy of nonparticipation in the great European imperial enterprise.31 The dominant discourse of American exceptionalism has rendered US imperialist policies invisible, yet many Asian American and Latina/o literary texts reveal and critique these policies and actions. The US colonization of the Philippines placed 20th-century Filipino Americans in the same position as postcolonial European subjects when they protested, “we are here because you were there.”32 The same might be said for Puerto Ricans, who are still US citizens despite widespread unawareness of this fact within the United States; Cuba also took on a semicolonial relationship to the United States after 1898. The legacies of US imperialism thus create structural similarities between Filipino and Puerto Rican literary works. Authors like Carlos Bulosan document the harsh living conditions of life in the Philippines under US colonial occupation as well as the racism faced by Filipino workers who migrated to the United States as a colonial center.33 Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1991), a novel that takes place later in the 20th century, explores the colonial legacy of the United States in the Philippines, using a postmodern pastiche of stories, letters, and historical documents pertaining to the US colonization of the Philippines.34 Puerto Rican literature also addresses the US occupation of Puerto Rico, as in the section titled “The American Invasion of Macún” in Esmeralda Santiago’s memoir When I Was Puerto Rican (1993), which describes colonial hygiene, nutrition, and US cultural lessons provided by US mainlanders for Puerto Rican children in the 1950s.35

Victor Bascara suggests the year 1898 as the starting point of US imperialist policy, but the colonization of the US Southwest predated this moment by fifty years. Gloria Anzaldúa reminds readers that the project of US imperialism was behind the appropriation of a third of Mexico’s land during the Mexican–American War, leaving the US–Mexico border a “1,950 mile-long open wound” that she evocatively describes as a region “where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds . . . and before a scab can form it hemorrhages again.”36 Anzaldúa’s image of the border zone as an area awash in blood evocatively describes the pain of what she sees as a 150-year occupation of Mexican land. This pain is key to understanding Mexican American border literature. In his short story “The Hammon and the Beans” (1963), Américo Paredes compares the US occupation of the land to the Greek invaders of Troy, linking the structural violence of colonization to the deaths of Latina/o children from diseases of poverty.37 Other border texts are less explicit but still establish Latina/o genealogies that predate the US occupation of the land; in Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima, for example, the protagonist’s family history and the religious mysticism embodied in the figure of an ancient carp make it clear that the land was Mexican before it was part of the United States.

If Filipino, Puerto Rican, and Mexican American border literature exposes US imperialism, other Asian American and Latina/o literature critiques the US involvement in Cold War–era military operations. Refugees from Latin America and Asia during the Cold War were often reluctant immigrants, forced to flee their homes because of war. Much Vietnamese American literature attests to the trauma of their wartime experiences, which were often followed by a difficult adjustment to life in the United States. Monique Truong’s short story “Kelly” (1991) vividly evokes the experience of a Vietnamese American growing up in the US South: to the protagonist’s classmates, “I was Pearl, and my last name was Harbor.”38 Regardless of their own wartime traumas, Southeast Asian refugees after the US war in Vietnam had to contend with racism that associated them with the enemy. Cubans who fled the Castro regime were subject to a different narrative, that of the successful defenders of democracy in the face of communism. However, they also had to contend with the dissonance between their own experiences and US Cold War narratives that replaced historical complexity with a simple, bilateral framework.

Much Korean American, Vietnamese American, and Cuban American literature works against the bilateral framework that dominates US understandings of the Cold War. In Susan Choi’s The Foreign Student (1998), for example, the Korean protagonist is employed as a translator for US military forces during the US war in Korea. Using a linguistic analogy to describe his own situation, he calls himself “the third thing . . . translation’s unnatural byproduct.”39 This definition is metonymic of the position of Koreans in the war who desired an independent nation, but were neither communist nor necessarily sympathetic to outside American forces. Thi Bui’s graphic memoir The Best We Could Do (2017) also frames her family’s situation as outside the two “sides” of the US war in Vietnam. Bui illustrates the Cold War “game of war and strategy” as a game of chess in which most Vietnamese people have no place or voice: “My grandparents, my parents, my sisters, and me—we weren’t any of the pieces on the chessboard.”40 Meanwhile, in Achy Obejas’s Memory Mambo (1996), the Cuban American protagonist Juani, like many Cuban Americans after the first exodus from the island, does not experience the Cuban American success story touted by the US government to exemplify democracy’s triumph over communism. Instead, her family owns a rundown laundromat in Chicago, and her father harbors a deep bitterness for the Castro regime and the US government, which he claims betrayed him. The failure of Juani’s family to fit within a Cold War bilateral narrative, as well as her own ambivalence about both sides, deeply affects her life and relationships with those around her.41 In all these works, Korean Americans, Vietnamese Americans, and Cuban Americans seek to carve out a space apart from the bilateral Cold War framework into which they have been placed.

Latina/o and Asian American literature stemming from these well-known conflicts wrestles with the task of communicating experiences that defy Cold War rhetoric. However, other texts must contend with the silences and erasures created by the Cold War, informing dominant American society of histories that have been suppressed. Hmong American literature such as Kao Kalia Yang’s The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir (2008) and The Song Poet (2016), for example, explores the consequences of US involvement in a “secret war” in Laos; few Americans know that the United States employed the Hmong in Laos in a disastrous military operation that ended in defeat and flight for those who could escape.42 Likewise, few Americans know of the US involvement in covert military operations in Central America and the Caribbean. Francisco Goldman’s The Long Night of White Chickens (1992) and Cristina García’s novel The Lady Matador’s Hotel (2010) both critique US military interventions in Guatemala that resulted in the deaths of thousands of Latina/o and indigenous villagers.43 Dominican American texts like Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) also emphasize US military interventions in the Dominican Republic and involvement in the brutal regime of dictator Rafael Trujillo. Díaz’s novel employs sardonic footnotes that directly address uninformed US readers of this history, as when he refers to “the First American Occupation of the DR, which ran from 1916 to 1924,” which is followed by a parenthetical aside: “You didn’t know we were occupied twice in the twentieth century? Don’t worry, when you have kids they won’t know the U.S. occupied Iraq either.”44 With this footnote, the narrator at once teaches US readers their own nation’s history and critiques the erasure of that history from US national consciousness. For Hmong, Laotian, and many Latin American refugees and migrants to the United States, the history that was so crucial to their migration experience is missing or elided in mainstream US narratives. Their literature addresses this gap, forming a critique of US national amnesia about military actions.

LatinAsian Contact Zones: Latina/o and Asian American Interactions

Common experiences of nativistic racism and US imperialism constitute thematic intersections between Latina/o and Asian American literature. A third intersection addresses literal interactions in which Latina/o and Asian American characters coexist in the same text, emphasizing common experiences and cross-racial solidarities between groups. Authors during the Civil Rights period drew explicit links between Latina/o and Asian (American) causes, as struggles for rights on the domestic front took inspiration from anticolonial and antiwar protests occurring in the Third World. As Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue demonstrates, the figure of Asia, especially Vietnam, was highly significant for Chicana/o writer-activists in their formation of Chicana/o nationalism.45 Women of color feminists also envisioned Latinas and Asian American women united in their reaction against patriarchal nationalisms and white feminism. In the iconic collection This Bridge Called My Back (1981), Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa write, “we are women from all kinds of childhood streets: the farms of Puerto Rico, the downtown streets of Chinatown, the barrio, city-Bronx streets, quiet suburban sidewalks, the plains, and the reservation.”46 The Civil Rights period explicitly linked the interests of Asian American and Latina/o activists, and thus literature from this time period tends to emphasize solidarities between groups.

However, it is important to note that the coexistence of Latina/o and Asian characters in literary texts predates the Civil Rights era. In the early 20th century, cross-racial solidarities between Latina/os and Asian Americans appear in texts concerned with agricultural labor, as both Asian American and Latina/o workers were integral to pre–World War II US agriculture. The Japanese–Mexican Labor Association, which organized strikes as early as 1903, united Japanese Americans and Mexican (American) workers in agricultural occupations on the West Coast. This labor bond was recognized in literature of the time period. For example, Mexican American characters occur frequently in Hisaye Yamamoto’s portrayals of early 20th-century Japanese American farm life. In Yamamoto’s most well-known story, “Seventeen Syllables” (1949), Rosie Hayashi becomes romantically involved with Mexican American Jesus Carrasco, a classmate whose family works on her family’s tomato farm.47 Although the Hayashis employ the Carrascos, the two families are pictured working side by side packing tomatoes, and Rosie’s carefree high school romance contrasts sharply with her mother’s marital unhappiness. In Yamamoto’s writing, Mexicans, Filipinos, and Japanese Americans inhabit a shared world of agricultural labor.

Common labor interests also united early Filipino and Mexican workers on the West Coast. Carlos Bulosan’s memoir America Is in the Heart (1946) depicts the shared oppression of Filipino and Mexican farm workers; in one scene, Bulosan and his fellow activists attempt to bring together Mexican and Filipino beet workers, observing that “although there were cultural and economic ties between them, they had not recognized one important point: that the beet companies conspired against their unity.”48 Much of Bulosan’s memoir describes efforts to achieve that unity, including meetings with Mexican leaders violently broken up by white men. Unity was finally achieved in 1966, when separate Filipino and Mexican unions merged to form the United Farm Workers.

Filipino and Mexican Americans had more in common than their labor. As former Spanish colonies, the Philippines and Mexico share Catholic rituals and beliefs, Spanish food and customs, and Spanish-language names, among other cultural forms. Historian Rudy P. Guevarra Jr. documents the growth of a significant “Mexipino” community in San Diego, consisting of Mexican American and Filipino families that have intermarried for generations.49 Meanwhile, sociologist Anthony Christian Ocampo refers to Filipinos as “The Latinos of Asia,” pointing to the ways in which Filipinos often have more in common with Latina/os than with Asian Americans of other national origin.50 These shared cultural characteristics have led to specific intersections in literature. In Brian Ascalon Roley’s American Son (2001), for example, Filipino American Tomas poses as a Mexican gang member in order to sell attack dogs to the Southern California elite.51 While this may be understood in part as an attempt by the protagonist to trade a feminized Asian masculinity for a hypermasculine Chicano identity,52 the Catholic tattoos Tomas sports are part of a colonial legacy to which he can lay claim. In a novel obsessed with the material aspects of the American Dream, Tomas’s assumed identity also points to ways in which neither Filipino Americans nor Mexican Americans are part of the economic and social elite.

Latina/o texts have also incorporated Asian and Asian American characters during times of war: both the US war in Vietnam and World War II. Chicano writer Américo Paredes was stationed in Japan during World War II, and several of his short stories address the US occupation of Japan after the war. These stories cast the US occupation as an imperial act parallel to the imperial occupation of the US–Mexico border. For example, in “When It Snowed in Kitabamba” (written between 1940 and 1953), the pompous Captain Meniscus refers to the Japanese as “natives.” Only a rare cultural reference places the work in Japan; in general, the captain’s behavior toward the brown-skinned inhabitants and his colonialist belief that his harsh treatment of them is for their own good—that he is “working hard for them, for their reform”—places the story in conversation with Paredes’s other stories, novels, and essays about the military occupation of southern Texas.53 Another Paredes story uses an Asian Latin American protagonist to critique the idea of patriotic nationalism. “Ichiro Kikuchi” (also written between 1940 and 1953) features a half-Japanese, half-Mexican youth who grows up in Mexico but gets drafted into the Japanese army while visiting his father’s homeland. Captured by Americans, he and his fellow prisoners are ordered to dig their own mass grave. Just in time, a Mexican American soldier recognizes Ichiro (also known as Lupe) as a fellow Latino because of a medallion of La Virgen de Guadalupe that he wears around his neck. This kinship saves Ichiro, yet also shames him as he leaves behind his Japanese compatriots to die. The liminal position of the protagonist interrogates simple wartime definitions of loyalty and heroism. The Mexican American soldier, a man named Melguizo, also shifts his loyalties between recognition of Mexican blood and affiliation with his Anglo regiment. The story’s final line, “There are no heroes now,” refers both to the protagonist’s father, whose heroic acts were on the Japanese (losing) side of the war, and to a stance that rejects the stark division of Allied and Axis forces.54 For Paredes, who fought on behalf of a state that was occupying his own homeland—the Mexico–US border—a half-Asian character highlights the difficulty of straightforward wartime patriotism.

More recent contact between Latina/os and Asian Americans has occurred with urbanization. Performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña writes, “when I visit Los Angeles or San Francisco, I am at the same time in Latin America and Asia . . . Mysterious underground railroads connect all these places—syncretic art forms, polyglot poetry and music, and transnational pop cultures function as meridians of thought and axes of communication.”55 In Gómez-Peña’s theorization of urban contact, art and popular culture link major US cities with one another and with Asia and Latin America. To describe this linkage, Latina/o studies scholar María DeGuzmán coined the term “Latinasia” in reference to the transnational convergence of Asians and Latina/os over three centuries of migration: “that is, the enormous influx of Asian immigrants and the movement of Latinas/o peoples across the Americas, south to north and west to east.”56 Building on this idea and Mary Louise Pratt’s concept of the “contact zone” as a space in which historically distinct populations intersect, Susan Thananopavarn has proposed that the Americas may be understood as a “LatinAsian contact zone.” The LatinAsian contact zone acknowledges the coexistence of Latina/o and Asian populations in North and South America, opening the possibility for new alliances while acknowledging conflicts and asymmetries of power.57

In literature, LatinAsian landscapes occur in texts like Karen Tei Yamashita’s novel Tropic of Orange (1997), which takes place in Los Angeles and features two Latina/o–Asian American couples, Gabriel/Emi and Rafaela/Bobby. The latter character, Bobby Ngu, is an especially hybrid figure, as he is described as “Chinese from Singapore with a Vietnam name speaking like a Mexican living in Koreatown.”58 This description identifies him as both pan-Asian—encompassing identities rooted in China, Singapore, Vietnam, and Korea—and Latino as he speaks like a Mexican and is married to a Mexican migrant, Rafaela. The Latina/o–Asian American encounters in Tropic of Orange emphasize the real ethnic landscape of Los Angeles even as they critique capitalist consumption and economic agreements like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) that disenfranchise the poor along the US–Mexico border. In the novel, Rafaela and Bobby’s son, Sol, is kidnapped by an infant organ-smuggling ring, an extreme symbol of the capitalist consumption of the Third World. The novel’s happy ending occurs with the return of the Asian Latino child, whose name (“sun”) signifies hope and the dawn of a LatinAsian future.

Mapping the Transpacific in Latina/o and Asian American Literature

Although the categories “Latina/o” and “Asian American” are commonly positioned within an “ethnoracial pentagon” in the United States, scholars such as Silvio Torres-Saillant have observed the problems with positioning Latina/o as a race instead of an ethnic identity. Such a position elides the wide racial diversity within the category Latina/o itself, especially eliding the recognition of Latina/os of African descent.59 The category also elides the existence of Asian Latina/os, who have lived in Latin America since at least the 16th century, when Spanish trade routes linked Manila and Acapulco, bringing Filipinos and other Asians to live in Mexico.60 Later, the Spanish brought thousands of Chinese to the Americas as part of the trata amarilla, or “coolie trade,” that helped build the New World along with African slave labor. According to theorist Lisa Lowe—and historian Lisa Yun—Asian indentureship in the early Americas may be strategically “forgotten” in historical narratives because it does not fit neatly into categories of freedom or enslavement; it blurs the boundaries between immigration and bondage.61 However, examining Asian contract labor reveals the workings of an earlier period of globalization, one that was responsible for encoding race in various forms throughout the Americas.

Literature about Asian contract labor in the Americas includes Jamaican author Patricia Powell’s The Pagoda (1998) and Cuban American author Cristina García’s Monkey Hunting (2003). García’s novel tells the story of Chen Pan, a 19th-century Chinese peasant brought to Cuba as part of the slave trade. Escaping the brutality of life as a slave on a sugar plantation, Chen Pan eventually manages to establish himself as a prosperous merchant in Havana. Chen Pan marries a former African slave, and his story continues in a family saga that eventually moves to the United States. The most contemporary character in the novel, Domingo Chen, is of Chinese, Spanish, and African ancestry. He is a Cuban national who has immigrated to New York, and he lives in Vietnam as an American soldier during the war.62 The stories of the characters in this novel articulate the power relations on which the New World was founded, especially the enslavement of Africans and Asians in the plantations of Cuba and the Americas. Driven by a historical narrative of imperialism, Monkey Hunting complicates readers’ ideas of Cuban American identity while insisting on the very real effects of colonialism, racism, and social inequality.

Asian migration to and within Latin America did not stop with the trade in indentured labor. Historian Evelyn Hu-DeHart outlines three epochs of Chinese migration to Latin America: merchants who settled in Spanish colonies, including the Philippines; contract laborers in plantation economies like Cuba and Peru; and settlements in Mexico in response to US Chinese exclusion policies.63 Asian settlers in Latin America also included Japanese populations, which were especially prominent in Peru and Brazil. Karen Tei Yamashita’s work includes a novel titled Brazil-Maru (1992), based on her anthropological research of Japanese Brazilian communities, most of whom are descended from contract laborers and settlers who arrived during the years 1908 to 1940. Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (1990) also features a Japanese man as one of the protagonists in a Brazil-centered postmodern critique of environmental degradation in the rainforests of South America, while her Circle K Cycles (2001) is a pastiche of stories, photos, and essays about Japanese Brazilians who choose to “return” to Japan.64

García and Yamashita are US-based authors, but there are also numerous authors of Asian descent living in Latin America. Asian American studies scholars increasingly advocate taking a “hemispheric approach” to the study of the Americas, referring to the entire Western Hemisphere as a valid scope of study rather than limiting the field to the United States.65 Such an approach yields an understanding of Asian American literature that stretches north to Canada and south to Latin America, incorporating texts written in Spanish as well as English. In Latina/o and Latin American studies, including literature written by authors of Asian descent, complicates racial and nationalist ideas of who is Latina/o or who is Latin American. Much Asian Latin American literature, like early Asian American literature, is concerned with claiming a place in the New World for those of Asian heritage. For example, Japanese Peruvian poet José Watanabe, whose father was a Japanese sugar cane laborer and whose mother was indigenous Peruvian, emphasizes transculturation in his work and the adaptation of Japanese migrants to Peruvian culture.66 In Watanabe’s poem “Este olor, su otro,” from his collection Historia natural (1994), the narrator’s sister chopping parsley recalls their Japanese father’s fondness for parsley in his soup. For their father, Don Harumi, parsley is a precious “secreto local de cocina,” while his other herbs hang long forgotten in a basket.67 This ingredient, the poem suggests, is part of a larger secret, the father’s ability to link his two worlds together successfully. Thus, although the poem overtly mourns the father’s death, critic Ignacio López-Calvo interprets it as a celebration of mestizaje, or the mixing of cultures.68

Other Asian Latin American writers stress the hardships that attend frequent migration, cultural dislocation, and insular ethnic communities. Two of Chinese Peruvian writer Siu Kam Wen’s works, the first story in the collection El tramo final (1985) and the novel La vida no es una tómbola (2007), relate the semiautobiographical story of a boy stifled by his authoritarian Chinese father, who insists that his son work long hours and discontinue his education in order to carry on the family business.69 The title story in El tramo final also relates a tale of dislocation, as it focuses on an old Chinese woman who cannot adapt to the modern Peruvian ways of her sons and grandsons; with no one to talk to in Chinese, she welcomes her own death following a hit-and-run accident in the street. The story “La conversión de Uei-Kuong,” perhaps Siu’s most intriguing work, uses the theme of cultural dislocation to interrogate the process of racial formation in Asia and the Americas.70 The title character is born to Peruvian parents but grows up culturally Chinese. After his mother’s death, the boy is adopted by his maternal aunt, who is married to a Chinese man. Shortly thereafter, the Chinese uncle takes all his children back to China, including his Peruvian nephew, whom he renames Uei-Kuong. As an adult, Uei-Kuong returns to Peru, an unwilling refugee from political turmoil. Self-identifying as Chinese, he causes consternation in Peru, where neither Chinese nor ethnic Peruvians can mentally categorize his race. As for Uei-Kuong himself, he cannot convert back into mainstream Peruvian society, speaking little Spanish and requiring a Chinese Peruvian wife who will understand his tastes. Essentially, he lives the life of a Chinese migrant with an ethnic Peruvian face. Like the other stories in El tramo final, “La conversión de Uei-Kuong” is a tale of cultural dislocation; however, it also forces readers to grapple with the difficult nuances of race and ethnic identity faced by many Asian Latin Americans, whose physical features, linguistic preference, and cultural tastes may or may not conform to societal expectations.

For Asian Latin American writers who have never lived in Asia, or whose lived experience in Asia is severely limited, writing may be a way to connect and reimagine their Asian heritage. In the case of Afro-Chinese Cuban poet Regino Pedroso, whose Chinese father abandoned the family when he was very young, poetry was a way to imagine into being and honor his Chinese ancestry in texts such as El ciruelo de Yuen Pei Fu (1955), a collection of “Chinese” poems, and sections of Nosotros (1933) that concern Chinese culture and history. Claiming his Chinese heritage through writing was also a way for the socially conscious Pedroso to reject any European ancestry. Following the Negrista poetic movement of 1930s Cuba, Pedroso emphasized his “Ethiopic-Asian” identity, one he characterized in the prologue of Nosotros as “Exploited.”71 Siu Kam Wen, too, wrote a second volume of short stories set entirely in premodern China. Critic Maan Lin describes the stories of La premiera espado del imperio as falling within the genre of “Chinese swordsmen stories.”72 López-Calvo characterizes Pedroso’s work as “self-Orientalization,” as it relies heavily on Western images of Asia in the absence of firsthand experience.73 However, such works also comprise a unique intersection of Asia and Latin America; for Pedroso, claiming a Chinese identity was itself a political statement, while for Siu, his Chinese swordsman stories allowed him to express an Asian heritage in the language he felt most comfortable writing in: Spanish.

Most Asian Latin American writing remains untranslated from the original Spanish. Exceptions include the works of two Asian Latina/o authors living in the United States: poet Brandon Som and playwright Virginia Grise, both of whose works are deeply informed by their Chinese Mexican heritage. Grise’s play rasgos asiáticos (Asian Traits, 2011), which tells the story of the Chinese in the US–Mexico borderlands, is written primarily in English with some Spanish and Cantonese dialogue.74 The play tells the story of four generations of women in China, Mexico, and the United States, as the main character, Hija, negotiates her identity as a lesbian Chinese Chicana living in Texas. As she recovers her family’s past, she discovers her Mexican grandmother’s flight from an abusive relationship to a marriage of convenience with a Chinese man who needs her citizenship to retain ownership of his store. Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue claims that the play “makes clear that Mexico’s gendered violence against its women cannot be dissociated from its nationalist history of racial violence against its Chinese migrants.”75 The play also emphasizes the forgotten Chinese Mexican histories that are of crucial importance to the identity of Hija and other Chinese Mexican Americans.

Asian Latina/o and Asian Latin American literature challenges conventional geographic divisions of the world, pressing readers and theorists to imagine the Pacific Ocean and its bordering countries as places bound together by commerce, migration, and cultural interactions. Recent scholars have begun to explore the transpacific as a network of connections that displaces Europe from the center of global connectivity. In a 2017 issue of Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Andrea Bachner and Pedro Erber argue that work on the transpacific “harbors the possibility of redrawing global maps and of breaking open wonted intercultural connections and trajectories.”76 It forces readers to pay attention to connections between geopolitical sites that have often been understood as disparate and unconnected. As such, Asian Latina/o and Asian Latin American literature can play an important part in reimagining the transpacific as a region linking Asia, North America, and South America through historical movement dating back at least four centuries.

Discussion of the Literature

The historical and sociological intersections of Latina/o and Asian American populations have been the focus of a growing number of comparative studies. Several sociological works, including George Yancey’s Who Is White? Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide (2003) and Eileen O’Brien’s The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide (2008), explore how Latina/os and Asian Americans negotiate the black/white racial divide in the United States. Other sociological and historical texts address specific Latina/o–Asian intersections. For example, Julian Go’s American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico (2008) and JoAnna Poblete’s Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai’i (2014) discuss the ways in which Filipinos and Puerto Ricans led parallel and intersecting lives at particular points in history. Other intersectional studies examine Filipinos’ affinity with Latina/o groups in the United States; these include Rudy P. Guevarra Jr.’s Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego (2012) and Anthony Christian Ocampo’s The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race (2016).

Comparative work in Latina/o and Asian American studies is also of interest to those seeking to shed light on the making of US citizens and subjects of the modern nation-state. Historian Mae M. Ngai’s book Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (2004) examines 20th-century US immigration policies toward Asian Americans and Mexican Americans to discuss how modern America defines itself through the created category of the illegal alien. The volume Racial Transformations: Latinos and Asians Remaking the United States (2006), edited by Nicholas De Genova, considers the ways in which the experiences of Latina/os and Asian Americans intersect in the formation of the US nation-state. In literary criticism, Crystal Parikh’s An Ethics of Betrayal: The Politics of Otherness in Emergent U.S. Literatures and Culture (2009) explores US citizenship and belonging through betrayal and treason in Asian American and Latina/o literature and cultural narratives. Parikh focuses on how Asian American and Latina/o subjects position themselves with respect to ideal or “alien” citizenship and what loyalty means with respect to diasporic subjects. Additional examples of comparative literary criticism include Jeehyun Lim’s Bilingual Brokers: Race, Literature, and Language as Human Capital (2017), which explores bilingualism as both liability and asset in postwar Asian American and Latina/o texts, and Susan Thananopavarn’s LatinAsian Cartographies: History, Writing, and the National Imaginary (2018), which considers how Latina/o and Asian American literary texts complicate and contradict dominant nationalist narratives in the United States.

In addition to comparative literary criticism, there is increasing scholarly interest in Asian–Latina/o connections as they map the geographies of the transpacific. Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue’s Southwest Asia: The Transpacific Geographies of Chicana/o Literature (2016) examines the figure of Asia and Asians in Chicana/o texts, demonstrating that Chicana/o literature is transnational not only with respect to the US–Mexico border but also with respect to Asia. Work on the transpacific additionally incorporates Asian Latin American literary criticism. In this field, Ignacio López-Calvo has provided comprehensive surveys of Chinese Cuban literature (and Cuban literature about China), Japanese Peruvian literature, and Chinese Peruvian literature. Zelideth María Rivas and Debbie Lee-DiStefano’s edited volume Imagining Asia in the Americas (2016) explores how Asians in the Americas understand their racial and cultural identities through literature and cultural practices. Several special issues of journals also explore LatinAsian literature and intersectional culture in the Americas, including Amerasia Journal’s “Forging a Third Chinese Literature of the Americas” (2012); Verge: Studies in Global Asias’ “Remapping the Transpacific: Critical Approaches between Asia and Latin America” (2017); and Asian American Literary Review’s “North/South: Literary Atlas of Asians in the Americas, Excepting the U.S.” (2017). The wide range of subjects in these critical texts demonstrates the scope of scholarly inquiry into the intersections of Latina/o and Asian American literary and cultural studies.

Further Reading

Bachner, Andrea, and Pedro Erber. “Remapping the Transpacific: Critical Approaches between Asia and Latin America.” Verge: Studies in Global Asias 3, no. 2 (2017): vi–xiii.Find this resource:

De Genova, Nicholas, ed. Racial Transformations: Latinos and Asians Remaking the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Go, Julian. American Empire and the Politics of Meaning: Elite Political Cultures in the Philippines and Puerto Rico during US Colonialism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Guevarra, Rudy P. Becoming Mexipino: Multiethnic Identities and Communities in San Diego. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Leong, Russell C., and Evelyn Hu-DeHart. “Forging a Third Chinese Literature of the Americas.” Amerasia Journal 38, no. 2 (2012): vi–xiv.Find this resource:

Lim, Jeehyun. Bilingual Brokers: Race, Literature, and Language as Human Capital. New York: Fordham University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

López-Calvo, Ignacio. Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008.Find this resource:

López-Calvo, Ignacio. The Affinity of the Eye: Writing Nikkei in Peru. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2013.Find this resource:

López-Calvo, Ignacio. Dragons in the Land of the Condor: Writing Tusán in Peru. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Ngai, Mae M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

“North/South: Literary Atlas of Asians in the Americas, Excepting the U.S.” Asian American Literary Review 8, no. 1 (2017).Find this resource:

O’Brien, Eileen. The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide. New York: New York University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Ocampo, Anthony Christian. The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Parikh, Crystal. An Ethics of Betrayal: The Politics of Otherness in Emergent U.S. Literatures and Culture. New York: Fordham University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Poblete, JoAnna. Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai’i. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Rivas, Zelideth María, and Debbie Lee-DiStefano, eds. Imagining Asia in the Americas. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Sae-Saue, Jayson Gonzales. Southwest Asia: The Transpacific Geographies of Chicana/o Literature. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Thananopavarn, Susan. LatinAsian Cartographies: History, Writing, and the National Imaginary. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018.Find this resource:

Yancey, George. Who Is White? Latinos, Asians, and the New Black/Nonblack Divide. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003.Find this resource:


(1.) See Lisa Lowe, “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, Multiplicity: Asian American Differences,” in Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 60–83. For more on the categories “Latino” and “Hispanic,” see Suzanne Oboler, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re)presentation in the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 155; and Marta Caminero-Santangelo, On Latinidad: U.S. Latino Literature and the Construction of Ethnicity (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2009), 1–2.

(5.) Angelo N. Ancheta, Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2006), 12.

(6.) Ancheta, Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience, 66.

(7.) Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America: A History (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015), 89.

(8.) Ancheta, Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience, 11–12.

(9.) Lee, The Making of Asian America, 229–230.

(10.) Suzanne Oboler, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives, 18.

(11.) Suzanne Oboler, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives, 19.

(12.) This racial bar to citizenship was not lifted until 1952. Ancheta, Race, Rights, and the Asian American Experience, 23–24.

(13.) Rodriguez eventually won his case for naturalization by invoking the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but the fact that his citizenship was initially denied based on racial grounds placed him in the same situation as Asian Americans at the time. Oboler, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives, 33.

(14.) Ngai, Impossible Subjects, 8.

(15.) Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and their Social Context (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982), xvii.

(16.) Shawn Wong, Homebase: A Novel (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008), 94.

(17.) Maya Socolovsky, Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature: Explorations of Place and Belonging (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013), 3.

(18.) Rudolfo A. Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima (New York: Warner Books, 1972).

(19.) John Okada, No-No Boy (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1981).

(20.) Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit and Other Plays (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1992), 30.

(21.) Parikh, An Ethics of Betrayal, 115.

(22.) Susan Choi, A Person of Interest (New York: Penguin, 2009).

(23.) Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (New York: Grove Press, 2015), 1.

(24.) Américo Paredes, George Washington Gómez: A Mexicotexan Novel (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1990).

(25.) Parikh, An Ethics of Betrayal, 23.

(26.) Parikh, An Ethics of Betrayal, 92.

(27.) Lowe, Immigrant Acts, 6.

(28.) Juan Flores, From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 198–199.

(29.) José David Saldívar, Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 1.

(30.) José David Saldívar, The Dialectics of Our America: Genealogy, Cultural Critique, and Literary History (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), 4.

(31.) Amy Kaplan, “‘Left Alone with America’: The Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture,” in Cultures of United States Imperialism, ed. Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 3–21.

(32.) Victor Bascara, Model-Minority Imperialism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), xxiv.

(33.) Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973).

(34.) Jessica Hagedorn, Dogeaters (New York: Penguin, 1991).

(35.) Esmeralda Santiago, When I Was Puerto Rican (New York: Vintage, 1993), 61–83.

(36.) Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), 24–25.

(37.) Américo Paredes, The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1994).

(38.) Monique Thuy-Dung Truong, “Kelly,” Amerasia Journal 17, no. 2 (1991): 42.

(39.) Susan Choi, The Foreign Student (New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998), 84.

(40.) Thi Bui, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2017), 185.

(41.) Achy Obejas, Memory Mambo (Pittsburgh, PA: Cleis Press, 1996).

(42.) See Ma Vang, “Writing on the Run: Hmong American Literary Formations and the Deterritorialized Subject,” MELUS 41, no. 3 (2016): 89–111.

(43.) Francisco Goldman, The Long Night of White Chickens (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1992); Cristina García, The Lady Matador’s Hotel (New York: Scribner, 2010).

(44.) Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007), 19.

(46.) Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 2nd ed. (New York: Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, 1983), 5.

(47.) Hisaye Yamamoto, Seventeen Syllables and Other Stories, rev. ed. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001).

(48.) Bulosan, America Is in the Heart, 195–196.

(51.) Brian Ascalon Roley, American Son: A Novel (New York: W. W. Norton, 2001).

(52.) Leah A. Milne, “Choosing Displacement: Scalar Variety, Fictional Memoirs, and the American Dream in Mona in the Promised Land and American Son,” South Atlantic Review 80, no. 1–2 (2015): 49–50.

(53.) Paredes, The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories, 127.

(54.) Paredes, The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories, 159.

(55.) Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The New World Border: Prophecies, Poems, and Loqueras for the End of the Century (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1996), 6.

(56.) María DeGuzmán, Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 301.

(57.) Susan Thananopavarn, LatinAsian Cartographies: History, Writing, and the National Imaginary (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2018), 110–113. For more on the concept of the “contact zone,” see Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London: Routledge, 2008).

(58.) Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange (Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1997), 15.

(59.) Silvio Torres-Saillant, “Inventing the Race: Latinos and the Ethnoracial Pentagon,” Latino Studies 1, no. 1 (2003): 123–151.

(60.) See Evelyn Hu-DeHart and Kathleen López, “Asian Diasporas in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Historical Overview,” Afro-Hispanic Review 27, no. 1 (2008): 9–21.

(61.) Lisa Lowe, “The Intimacies of Four Continents,” in Haunted By Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History, ed. Ann Laura Stoler (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 191–212; and Lisa Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008).

(62.) Cristina García, Monkey Hunting (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003).

(63.) Evelyn Hu-DeHart, “Integration and Exclusion: The Chinese in Multiracial Latin America and the Caribbean,” Routledge Handbook of the Chinese Diaspora, ed. Chee-Beng Tan (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013), 89–107.

(64.) Karen Tei Yamashita, Brazil-Maru (Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1992); Karen Tei Yamashita, Through the Arc of the Rain Forest (Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 1990); and Karen Tei Yamashita, Circle K Cycles (Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press, 2001).

(65.) See historian Erika Lee, “Orientalisms in the Americas: A Hemispheric Approach to Asian American History,” Journal of Asian American Studies 8, no. 3 (2005): 235–256.

(67.) José Watanabe, Elogio del refrenamiento: Antología poética, 1971–2003, ed. Eduardo Chirinos (Seville: Renacimiento, 2003), 81–82.

(68.) López-Calvo, The Affinity of the Eye, 166.

(69.) Siu Kam Wen, El tramo final: Cuentos (Lima, Peru: Casatomada, 2009); and Siu Kam Wen, La vida no es una tómbola (Morrisville, NC: Abajo el Puente, 2007). The title of the latter work is a play on the song “La vida es una tombola” (Life is a Lottery) by Spanish singer and actress Marisol.

(70.) This story is in Siu, El tramo final.

(71.) For more about Regino Pedroso and his Chinese-oriented works, see Debbie Lee, “Regino Pedroso and El ciruelo de Yuan Pei Fu: Poemas chinos,” Amerasia Journal 28, no. 2 (2002): 92–105; and Ignacio López-Calvo, Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008).

(72.) Maan Lin, “Translating ‘La primera espada del imperio’ into English and Chinese,” Amerasia Journal 38, no. 2 (2012): 102.

(73.) López-Calvo, Imaging the Chinese, 80.

(74.) Grise published an excerpt from this play in 2003: Virginia Grise, “rasgos asiaticos,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 24, no. 2/3 (2003): 132–139. More about the unpublished 2011 version of the play can be found in the chapter “Chinese Immigration, Mixed-Race Families, and China-cana Feminisms in Virginia Grise’s Rasgos asiáticos” in Sae-Saue, Southwest Asia, 111–126.

(75.) Sae-Saue, Southwest Asia, 118.