HISTORYAND MEMORY IN ASIA/ AMERICA
Wherewe come from is usually a question that bothers us as humans. Ourorigins and culture are important to us. They make it possible tohave an identity and know how to conduct ourselves in differentsituations. This urge can compel an individual to go on a quest todetermine their ancient history and their originality as in the caseof Deann Borshay. This essay will look into the lives of differentauthors and explain how history and memory play a significantfunction in the society and how they define who we are and where wecome from.
Ouridentity is not fixed and is often referred to or explained bydifferent events in history. Who we think we are is not until onedecides to dig back to their roots. In the case of Deann Borshay, sheknew she was not who everyone believed she was, she decided to lookfor the little girl whose name was given to since she knew she had afamily. After she grew up, the memories flooded in, she knew she hadto go look for her family back in Korea. Her memory is what promptedher to go look for her family. This happens in our daily lives everysingle day or rather to the people close to us. We have thatcuriosity that we need to feed to determine our roots and findanswers.
Differentpeople in history shaped our country, as we know it now. Like thewhites accepting the blacks is all because of the activists who werethere back in time such as Martin Luther king. In South Africa it wasNelson Mandela. People back then fought for our rights and the lifethat we live in right now. In the case of Asian Americans, in the 50sand 60s, Americans did not fully embrace Asians. Asians were to serveas a substitute for the African slaves, and they were not given equalopportunities as the natives of the land. Zia in her book “Nothinga Consciousness” gives us her first-hand experience as a young girlfrom Asia trying to be successful in America. She witnesses thedifferent events that merged and led to the Americans embracing them.
TheAsians were practically invisible in the U.S. in terms of culture andhistory. Zia creates a personal and national history by filling thisabsence of the Asians with the events that came about with bringingtogether the two communities. These events include the murder ofVincent Chin in Detroit in 1982. The riots that embarked in LosAngeles in 1992, resulting in the Korean Americans losing theirproperty worth more than a billion dollars due to the damages thatoccurred and the strike that the South Korea taxi drivers in NewYork together with the New York taxi drivers in May 1998. All theseevents led to the recent population boom of the Asians in America.These events together with Zia’s perspectives will make thisimportant part of history not disappear again. The events ensuredthat the Asians received equal treatment as part of the citizens, afreedom every Asian American enjoys at the moment.
TheAsians in America enjoy their political freedom and socialinvolvement in America because of the events that happened inhistory. Their history has ensured that they are who they are at thisage and century, as Zia asserts: “Since I looked like the enemy, Imust be the enemy” (Zia, 2000, 14). They are able to describe theirorigin, the fight their people fought and the fruits of this fight.
DeannBorshay, in “First Person Plural”givesa story of how a young girl from Korea was taken in by a US familyfrom an orphanage. She grew up as an American but she did not feelAmerican because the people did not treat her like an American. Shealso did not feel like an Asian since she knew nothing about herhistory, despite the fact the matron at the orphanage gave heranother girls name a detail the Borshays didn’tknow about. When shebecame a big girl this thought ended up depressing her and she justhad to go look for her parents back in Korea since she knew they werealive. The memories of her family always came back to her as flashesin her dreams and she was incapable of resisting the urge to find herhistory together with her family. She flies to Korea and luckily, sheis able to trace her family. Her joy was to see her adoptive familytogether with her biological family in one room.
Borshay’smemories served an important piece in the puzzle both in the contextof her own history and the nation’s history. This showed the eventsthat led her to the Americans. Lisa Chi Chen in SevenChinese Brothers, Revisited writes:“My brothers bow and grin now in relic time-Li’l black samborestaurants, the minstrel-gooned Darkie toothpaste we used inTaiwan-all hand in sleeve” (1995, 40).
Inconclusion, history does serve a purpose in an individual’s life.It not only identifies him but also gives them a sense of culture andsocial involvement in their country. The events and memories thathappened in the past have led to the political ideology the Asiansare facing in America right now. They are now able to enjoy equalrights together with the Americans.
RACEAND GENDER IN ASIA AMERICA
Fora long time, Asian women have been portrayed as sex symbols or evilmaniacs in Hollywood movies. They are shown to be weak individualswho will use their sexual prowess to get their way. This stereotypinghas been going on over the years raising a question to the growingAsian generation on what their role is to society. The West have beenstereotyping about Asian women, referring to them as weak individualswho can be dominated. Deborah Gee in her film “Slaying the Dragon”shows the evolution of the Asian woman in the past as a sex symbol tothe present news anchor. This is also portrayed in David Cronenberg’splay of how the Asian man acted as an Asian woman and used hersexuality to get information from the Western man. This essay willtalk about the challenge these movies pose on the stereotyping ofAsian women.
InDeborah Gee’s “Slaying the Dragon”, the actors clearly arecritical that they had to be made to look sexual. They had to givewhat the producers wanted in order to make it in the harsh Americanlife. The Asian women were made to be exotic and sensual with longhair, with long slits in their skirts to be able to portray thatsexual appeal. This degraded the Asian women in terms of theirdignity and self-respect.
Themovie brought to light the sentiments of the Asian women to broaddaylight in order to give the people the sense that the Asian womanwas more than a sex symbol. In that, same movie an Asian man wasportrayed as an evil person who keeps disturbing the peace of thepeople and he is helped by his daughter to accomplish his evil deeds.The next one was about the civil war of the Chinese which would seethem being liberated from all this. Next, is the anchor being toldshe needs to improve her makeup and looks so that she could give thesexual appeal that is associated with Asian women. This movieportrays how the media is using the Asian woman in the wrong kind ofway. It poses a challenge to the upcoming generation, urging them notto allow themselves to be used in this kind of way.
Thisevent of using Asian women comes after a period when Asians were notincluded in movies. White people were often used in place of theAsians. They were not involved in the production and acting. TheAsian generation has come a long way to be visible to the Americansand this may have led them to feel inferior to the West and allowthemselves to be used in any way to feel accepted or part of theculture. Jessica Hagedorn says the following in “Asian Women inFilm: No Joy, No Luck”: “In Hollywood vehicles, we are objects ofdesire or derision we exist to provide sex, colour, and texture inwhat is essentially a white man’s world. It is akin to what ToniMorrison calls ‘the Africanist presence’ in literature” (2003,210)
David’splay, M. Butterfly is about a Caucasian man who personifies himselfas a mistress named Song. Song disguises himself as a woman to stealinformation from this Caucasian man. He uses the stereotype, of howAsian women are sex symbols and that they will do anything that theyare asked to do. They engage in all things that men and women do andsong is able to get what he was looking for. Song knew thevulnerability of the Asian woman and he used it to his advantage “ittakes a man to know what it is to be a real woman” (David, 1988).Later in the play, his wife catches the Caucasian man and he isdivorced and commits suicide in the end.
Inthis play, the western character thinks that he is superior to theAsian woman. He therefore thinks that he is in control little did heknow that the Asian woman was in control. Even when he found outthat, the Asian woman was a man he did not believe until he saw hisnaked body. Song knew that he had to give the Caucasian sex appeal tocapture his attention as he went about with his investigations on theinformation he requires. He does everything a woman does and becomesin control. In this play, the man is portrayed as a woman to make himfeel what it is to be an Asian woman who is mistreated sexually.
Overall,Asian women have gone through a major transformation such as Lucy Luibeing the best Asian female actor at the moment. The West used themso that the movies could sell in large numbers to the whole of theuniverse. After all is said and done women should not be used as sexsymbols, they should be appreciated for their contribution inpeople’s lives and how their hard work benefits all of us. TheAsian woman should be given the respect she deserves as Deborah saysin “Slaying the Dragon’ film.