Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
Images of ominous villains and asexual heroes in literature and mainstream American culture tend to relegate Asian American men to limited expressions of masculinity. These emasculating images deny Asian American men elements of traditional masculinity, including agency and strength. Many recognize the efforts of Frank Chin, a Chinese American novelist, to confront, expose, and revise such images by relying on a tradition of Chinese heroism. In Gunga Din Highway (1994), however, Chin creates an Asian American masculinity based on elements of both the Chinese heroic tradition and a distinct brand of African American masculinity manifested in the work of Ishmael Reed, an African American novelist and essayist known for his outspoken style.^1 Rather than transforming traditional masculinity to include Asian American manhood, Chin's images of men represent an appropriation of elements from two ethnic sources that Chin uses to underscore those of Asian Americans. While deconstructing the reductive images advocated by the dominant culture, Chin critiques the very black masculinity he adopts. Ultimately he fails to envision modes of masculinity not based on dominance, yet Chin's approach also can be read as the ultimate expression of Asian American individualism.
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