A roundtable of scholars, concurrent with a roundtable of archivists, convened by public history nonprofit Densho in Seattle in October 2016. This provided a new forum for scholars of the Japanese American incarceration to converse intensely on their individual new work but also the direction of the field. Read Densho’s blog for photos and descriptions of the weekend’s events, including Heidi Kim’s workshop.
“Flower Drum Song, Operation Wetback, and Whitewashing: A Message from 1961″ by Heidi Kim appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books in September 2016. Showcasing work from the Hammerstein papers in the Library of Congress, this article details how Hammerstein and his collaborator Joseph Fields slowly introduced the idea of illegal immigration into this otherwise light-hearted musical, which with its all Asian American cast, was a landmark in ethnic theater and film. This work forms part of Prof. Kim’s second book project, which will focus on the public discussion of illegal immigration in the Cold War.
Released in 2016 from Oxford University Press, Invisible Subjects: Asian America in Postwar Literature.
Invisible Subjects broadens the archive of Asian American studies, using advances in Asian American history and historiography to reinterpret the politics of the major figures of post-World War II American literature and criticism.
Taking its theoretical inspiration from the work of Ralph Ellison and his focus on the invisibility of a racial minority in mainstream history, Heidi Kim argues that the work of American studies and literature in this era to explain and contain the troubling Asian figure reflects both the swift amnesia that covers the Pacific theater of WWII and the importance of the Asian to immigration debates and civil rights. From the Melville Revival through the myth and symbol school, as well as the fiction of John Steinbeck and William Faulkner, the postwar literary scene exhibits the ambiguity of Asian forms in the 1950s within the binaries of foreigner/native and black/white, as well as the constructs of gender and the nuclear family. It contrasts with the tortured redefinitions of race and nationality that appear in immigration acts and court cases, particularly those about segregation and interracial marriage. The Melville Revival critics’ discussion of a mythic and yet realistic diabolical Asian, the role of a Chinese housekeeper in preserving the pioneer family in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and the extent to which the history of the Mississippi Chinese sheds light on Faulkner’s stagnant societies all work to subsume a troubling presence.
Detailing the archaeology and genealogy of Asian American Studies, Invisible Subjects offers an original, important, and vital contribution to both our understanding of American literary history and the general study of race and ethnicity in American cultural history.
“Artist to Artist, Across the Years: Jade Snow Wong and the Budapest Quartet” by Heidi Kim appeared in the Library of Congress’s online feature In the Muse in January 2016. It begins, “One of the most engaging and charming anecdotes in Jade Snow Wong’s memoir Fifth Chinese Daughter, a bestseller of the 1950s, recounts how she, as a student at Mills College, cooked a Chinese dinner for a famous string quartet who her dean was hosting.” Kim goes on to detail how she found, in Wong’s archives at the Library, a charming story of a friendship that lasted for many years between the young woman who became a famous artist herself and a world-famous quartet.
Taken from the Paradise Isle: The Hoshida Family Story, edited by Heidi Kim and with a foreword by Franklin Odo, was released in July 2015 from the University Press of Colorado.
Crafted from George Hoshida’s diary and memoir, as well as letters faithfully exchanged with his wife Tamae, Taken from the Paradise Isle is an intimate account of the anger, resignation, philosophy, optimism, and love with which the Hoshida family endured their separation and incarceration during World War II. The volume includes historical footnotes and contextualization as well as government documents detailing the behind-the-scenes handling of the cases of George, Tamae, and others from Hawaii.
It has been a privilege to work with the family and community to bring this important story to publication at long last, decades after George put it together.
Carolina Performing Arts made a trailer to explain its exciting new Mellon-funded initiative Arts@TheCore, which will help to get more students and faculty involved actively with the arts. I spoke a little about my considerable enthusiasm for all things arts-related, as well as CPA’s incredibly successful Rite at 100 festival last year.
Heidi Kim’s essay “Incarceration, Cafeteria Style,” about the politics of proper eating during the Japanese American incarceration, appears in the first ever Asian American food studies reader, Eating Asian America, released in fall 2013 from NYU Press. See the book’s Amazon page here.
The A/P/A Institute at NYU hosted a wonderful book launch for us which was attended by well over 100 people. Chaired by Krishnendu Ray (NYU), the book’s three editors and three of the authors, including me, presented snippets of the essays and discussed the book’s overall motivation and contribution.
Below are some pictures from the event. Thanks to the A/P/A Institute at NYU for the photos.
Top row: Robert Ku, Krishnendu Ray, Anita Mannur, Martin Manalansan IV. Bottom row: Nina Fallenbaum Ichikawa, Zohra Saed, Heidi Kim.
My post on a little gem of a Steinbeck finding at the UT Austin Harry Ransom Center (a true treasure trove of literary materials) is up here.
As with so many male authors of the period, Steinbeck’s depiction of women has often been critiqued. Here, he encapsulates his views on women to the point of self-caricature. Flair was a short-lived, very high-art magazine which had a well received run in the 1950s.
My article on the reception and performance history of John Adams’ song setting of “The Wound-Dresser” (a great piece for baritone and small orchestra) is out from my friends at the WWQR. Thanks to editor Ed Folsom for his enduring support of Whitman and young Whitman scholars!
This was a particularly fun article for me to write (and a horrific bibliographical experience). It was a first venture into writing about one of my big hobbies, classical music, and I got to use an almost overwhelming variety of sources, including interviews I conducted with two tremendous opera singers, Nathan Gunn and Eric Owens. I also drew on baritone Thomas Hampson‘s considerable public speaking about this piece, thanks to the New York Philharmonic media staffer Katie Klenn, who really went the extra mile in shipping me DVDs of his talks.
The only thing I didn’t try to do was interview Adams, and now, as I look at the piece, I can’t think for the life of me why not. I did use his blog.
In November 2012, I was part of a panel called Asian Americans in the South at SAMLA. I am presenting on lives of the Bunker twins, Chang and Eng, better known as the Siamese twins, who settled in North Carolina. More to the point, I will be presenting on the work I have done with my students on their archival materials at UNC and our collaboration with playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, who has written a new play about the twins.
I chaired a panel called Archives of Memory and Erasure at the American Studies Association meeting in November 2012. We had a lively conversation about papers from Catherine Fung (Bentley, English) and Natasha Bissonauth (Cornell, Art History) and Chris Earle in absentia. I offered some remarks about various theories of memory and archives (but not erasure).
Just out! “When You Can’t Tell Your Friends from the Japs: Reading the body in the Korematsu case.” Journal of Transnational American Studies special issue in honor of Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, spring-summer 2012 (4(1)).
Fred Korematsu, plaintiff of the landmark 1944 case Korematsu v. United States, famously had cosmetic surgery on his face to try to escape the ‘internment,’ the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. This article examines the popular and legal discussion of his surgery at that time, which show that fears of Japanese spies and the supposed inability to distinguish Japanese, captured in the famous Life magazine article “How To Tell Your Friends from the Japs,” directly influenced the courts’ rulings on the legality of the internment. The deliberate decision of the Supreme Court to excise this issue from the Korematsu opinion, which disclaimed racism as a root cause of the internment, is exposed through archival documents and drafts that betray a deep interest in his surgery, as do the government and lower court documents. As a heroic figurehead of civil rights, Korematsu complicates the discussion of surgical patients as complicit, drawing attention instead to the legalized discrimination that drives such choices. Likewise, key Supreme Court cases benefit from a close reading of the issue of mutable appearance and racial passing, as they show a common anxiety and inability to define race precisely on the body.
I was delighted to be able to participate in an issue to honor Sau-ling Wong and her many contributions to the field of Asian American studies. In particular, her idea of “food pornography” is always a hit with students!
I was happy to chair the Walt Whitman society panel at the American Literature Association in 2012, which featured three different but fascinating papers on Whitman’s careful print layout and typography choices, his reading of Dante and how that influenced his depiction of war as hell, and his influence on two modern ethnic writers and the discourse of gays in the military.
In May 2012, I chaired an author reading session organized by the Circle for Asian American Literary Studies at the American Literature Association. This featured playwright Philip Kan Gotanda, a now-frequent guest of mine, and prose fiction writer Lysley Tenorio, whose new collection Monstress has just come out. Lysley read from Monstress, and Philip read from two of his new plays, Love in American Times and I Dream of Chang and Eng.
In April 2012, I joined Greg Robinson, Setsuko Nishi, Gene Oishi, and Cherstin Lyon for a roundtable on New Approaches to the Japanese American Incarceration. Greg and Cherstin are historians, Setsuko is a sociologist, and Gene is a novelist and retired journalist. We had a lively discussion of our new works in progress and the enduring importance of researching and reaching out to talk about one of the biggest civil rights violations in modern U.S. history.