American Dragons: Twenty-Five Asian American Voices

Overview

The dragon, a symbol of Asian art and mythology, appears in many guises and is always adaptable — a survivor par excellence. Asian Americans display this same supple strength as they move between their Asian culture and their American one.

In American Dragons, Laurence Yep brings together twenty-five talented writers, each with a different story about the Asian American experience:

- A Chinese American girl struggles to find her place in a suburban high school without denying ...

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Overview

The dragon, a symbol of Asian art and mythology, appears in many guises and is always adaptable — a survivor par excellence. Asian Americans display this same supple strength as they move between their Asian culture and their American one.

In American Dragons, Laurence Yep brings together twenty-five talented writers, each with a different story about the Asian American experience:

- A Chinese American girl struggles to find her place in a suburban high school without denying her true intelligence.

- A young woman is torn when her romantic feelings clash with the expectations of her Vietnamese parents.

- A twenty-first-century teenager and his aging grandfather learn that it is possible to live in the future without losing touch with the past.

Includes short stories, poems, and excerpts from plays that relate what it is like growing up Asian American.

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Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
An East-meets-West collection that kids will enjoy.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
An East-meets-West collection that kids will enjoy.
Stuart Miller
The universal search for a way home underlies these strongly autobiographical stories, poems, and essays about kids whose parents come from a wide diversity of places and cultures, including China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet. The pieces are loosely organized by theme ("The Wise Child," "Guides," etc.), and Yep's unpretentious brief introductions to each section and each writer focus on issues of identity, on what he calls the "war zone" in school and neighborhood and also at the dinner table. In Wakako Yamauchi's exquisite story, "And the Soul Shall Dance," a woman remembers her Japanese American childhood in the California desert and the neighbor Mrs. Oka, whom everyone labeled "strange": only now does the narrator realize Mrs. Oka's suffering, an immigrant trapped in a loveless marriage far from home. Some of the best pieces are about kids across generations: the teenager who bonds with her tyrannical grandmother; the gifted student who gives up the boy she loves because of her parents' expectations ("His brown was different from mine. . . . Those pigments keep us apart"). Not all the pieces are as polished: several writers overdramatize the conflict and repeat their message many times. But that message is ambiguous, and the characters aren't sentimentalized or stereotyped. These writers are frank about self-hatred and family pressure, about the confines of tradition--in all its rich variety--and the lure of the mainstream. Of course, Asian Americans will recognize themselves in many of these pieces; so will immigrants everywhere. In fact, all teens will see something of themselves in the struggle to find "an identity that isn't generic."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060214944
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Laurence Yep is the acclaimed author of more than sixty books for young people and a winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. His illustrious list of novels includes the Newbery Honor Books Dragonwings and Dragon's Gate; The Earth Dragon Awakes: The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee; and The Dragon's Child: A Story of Angel Island, which he cowrote with his niece, Dr. Kathleen S. Yep, and was named a New York Public Library's "One Hundred Titles for Reading and Sharing" and a Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book.

Mr. Yep grew up in San Francisco, where he was born. He attended Marquette University, graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and received his PhD from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He lives in Pacific Grove, California, with his wife, the writer Joanne Ryder.

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Read an Excerpt

Identity



A dragon appears in many guises and is always adaptable, the survivor par excellence. Asian Americans display the same versatility as they move back and forth between their Asian culture and their American one. As Philip Slater states in The Pursuit of Loneliness, on the one hand, America stresses competition, individualism, independence and technology. An Asian culture, on the other hand, stresses cooperation, community, interdependence and tradition. The cultures pull in opposite directions, and it is the soul of the Asian American that provides the rope for that tug of war.

Who am l? What am I? These are questions my students raised most often when I taught creative writing in Asian American Studies at UC, Berkeley and UC, Santa Barbara. Wing Tek Lum speaks eloquently about that limbo in his "Translations."

Sometimes the search for an identity transforms the American Hopescape into a war zone. Whatever their culture, almost all Asian American writers are veterans of the battlefield represented by Darrell Lum's Chinese school. In his "Yahk Fahn, Auntie," Darrell Lum chronicles the guerilla warfare that takes place not only in that classroom but at the dinner table as well.

Steve Yoon's "Stoplight" poignantly describes the dilemma of being caught between the trenches in a noman's land.

The dance floor is another spot where cultures can war with one another. "Miss Butterfly" is the ironic title that Toshio Mori gives to the dilemma of Asian American women who are caught in the crossfire between American and Asian American male stereotypes

Asian American parents burden their children with a heavy load of expectationsbefore they send them into the Hopescape; but like medieval European knights these children can become so weighed down with armor and weapons that they can barely move. In her "Hollywood and the Pits," Cherylene Lee shows that dropping that burden is the first step toward a ceasefire. Perhaps the next steps are what Lensey Namioka suggestsin the excerpt from her novel Who's Hu?: Find what you want to do and what you are good at.

Wing Tek Lum is a prize-winning Chinese American poet who resides in Hawaii.

Translations

for Jeffery Paul Chan in appreciation for his letter to the editor, New York Review of Books, April 28, 1977

1
Ghosts: they conjure
up childhood
scenes -- me running around in
old bedsheets, reading
about Casper
next to a comic
rack, marvelling at
the trick camerawork for Cosmo G. Topper.


Gwai: I am older now,
sometimes catch previews
to those Shaw Brothers horror
films, at the
library research ancient
rites of exorcism for
the baneful
who brought pestilence and
drought. There are also,
I have learned, Old Demons who wear
white skin
and make believe
they behave
like men.


2
The Chinaman gave
the Demon what
the former thought
the latter thought
were things
Chinese: a comedy
of errors,
part fawning, part
deception and contempt.
There is no word for
fortune cookie in Cantonese.


3
Tohng Yahn Gaai was what
we once called
where we
lived: "China-People-
Street." Later, we mimicked
Demon talk
and wrote down only
Wah Fauh -- "China-Town."
The difference
is obvious: the people
disappeared.


American Dragons. Copyright © by Laurence Yep. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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