Your second assignment is a 6 page book review. For it, you will read and compare two novels, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer. Your task, in comparing the novels, is to consider and discuss the diversity of experiences that may, or may not, count as “Asian American.” The novels, for instance, present two different frameworks, immigrant and refugee, within which to understand how Asians came to the United States and the types of connections they do, or do not, maintain with and how they understand their homelands. In another sense, both novels present the experiences of Asian groups, South and Southeast Asians, who are not necessarily representative, or seen as representative, of “Asian Americans” – who many people in the United States implicitly consider East Asian. These groups are more recent, post-1965 arrivals and do not feature prominently in most accounts of Asian Americans historically. Your paper should focus on the details of these novels, but relate them to these broader issues and concerns. How, for instance, would an immigrant and/or a refugee think of their relationship to the United States, the country where they find themselves residing, but may not necessarily have allegiance to? Although you have a specific task for your paper, you may take it in a direction of your choice. Don’t try to address the question in all the ways it might be addressed, but choose one aspect of the issue that stands out to you, or alternatively, choose aspects of the novels that you found striking or interesting and relate them to the question. In other words, avoid being overly general – because it often leads to vagueness and lack of clarity – and instead, be specific, in the details you discuss, the examples you give, and the arguments you make about them. Among the issues you may address are the issues we’ve been discussing in class: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, interpersonal relationships (like family, friends, and community), cross-cultural communication/translation, age, generation, and life cycle, and what it means to be political or cultural.
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