In this age of rapid transition, Asian American studies and American studies in general are being reconfigured to reflect global migrations and the diverse populations of the United States. Asian American literature, in particular, has embodied the crisis of identity that is at the heart of larger academic and political debates surrounding diversity and the inclusion and exclusion of immigrant and refugee groups. These issues underlie the very principles on which literature, culture, and art are produced, preserved, taught, and critiqued. Words Matter
is the first collection of interviews with 20th-century Asian American writers. The conversations that have been gathered here-interviews with twenty writers possessing unique backgrounds, perspectives, thematic concerns, and artistic priorities-effectively dispel any easy categorizations of people of Asian descent. These writers comment on their own work and speak frankly about aesthetics, politics, and the challenges they have encountered in pursuing a writing career. They address, among other issues, the expectations attached to the label "Asian American," the burden of representation shouldered by ethnic artists, and the different demands of "mainstream" and ethnic audiences.
Author Biography: King-Kok Cheung is associate professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Articulate Silences: Hisaye Yamamoto, Maxine Hong Kingston, Joy Kogawa; editor of An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature; and editor of Asian American Literature: An Annotated Bibliography.