P39. Asian American Experiences

Session: Sessioin6, 2:00 – 3:30pm, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Excellence

Chair: Yangyang Liu (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Maura Elizabeth Cunningham, Hana Kang, Kevin Yang

Chop Suey and Community: Chinese Restaurants in the Upper Midwest

Speaker: Maura Elizabeth Cunningham
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Association for Asian Studies
Abstract: In the late nineteenth century, eating in the Chinatowns of New York or San Francisco was foreign enough for most Americans that newspapers published accounts of their meals—some diners appreciative of the new experience, others describing it with horror and disdain. Within the next few decades, however, Chinese restauranteurs expanded beyond larger enclaves on the coast. Setting up shop across the United States, they established the local Chinese restaurant as a common feature of communities throughout the nation.   In this paper, I will provide an overview of the Chinese restaurant scene in the Upper Midwest (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin) over the past century. My interest is in looking beyond major cities and seeking out the stories of individual restauranteurs who ventured into the towns and suburbs of this region. Through such case studies, I explore Midwestern histories of Chinese migration, relations between Asian and non-Asian communities, and evolving food scenes. In this work, I recount the challenges encountered by Chinese migrants who found themselves in a region not known for its diversity, while also joining an increasing number of writers and scholars interrogating widespread perceptions of the Midwest as homogenous and provincial.

Critical Discourse Analysis of Korean American Juvenile Books: Representation and Intersectionality of Korean American

Speaker: Hana Kang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Multicultural literature is an effective tool to help students understand other cultures and their own (Norton, 2000). According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Asian students made up 5% of U.S. public schools in 2020, and it is projected that the percentage will increase to 6% by 2030. For this reason, many children’s books about Asian Americans are published and used in U.S. public elementary schools. Furthermore, researchers have studied the authentic representation of Korean culture and Korean American identity (Wee, Park & Choi, 2014; Wee, 2022). However, few studies seem to be on Korean American juvenile books (targeting ages 10-17) due to the limited number of books available. Nonetheless, it is crucial to understand Korean American juvenile books because the target readers are at critical ages of identity formation, gender, and racial identity. This paper examines contemporary Korean American juvenile books published between 2010 and 2022 using critical discourse analysis (CDA). CDA reveals the power relations behind language, discourse, and social inequality (van Dijk, 1999). In addition, this paper investigates the representation of socioeconomic status and gender, as well as the intersectionality of race and identity in Korean American juvenile books. The findings suggest that the books represent authentic Korean American experiences and cultures. However, this study reveals a scarcity of male characters and a fragmentary representation of the intersectionality of race.

Model Minority – A Historical Perspective

Speaker: Kevin Yang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Cranbrook Kingswood Schools
Abstract: Throughout the majority of the history of the United States, Asian Americans were viewed with contempt due to their foreigner status and appearance. However, through the creation of the model minority myth, they were portrayed to be naturally intelligent. While this generally improved the image of Asians in the eyes of a Caucasion citizen, in the eyes of those suffering, Asian Americans would occasionally become targets, taking the blame for the lack of jobs or money. Through the civil rights efforts of Asian Americans in the mid 1900s these blatantly racist acts slowly subsided but were replaced by casual racist comments. But why do these acts of racism almost never erupt in protest or make the headlines? Passed down through following generations, many Asian Americans are taught to keep their heads down and not attract attention. While in the past this may have worked to ensure safety, in the present, Asian Americans are left without a voice. Despite further efforts to eliminate this stereotype, the model minority myth has been grounded within American history and in the minds of current generations and does not appear to be leaving or actively protesting. Continued implementation of these stereotypes will perpetuate this idea in the foreseeable future. Only when society begins to realize that such an act will be damaging to not just Asian Americans but also the unity of America as a whole will the cycle start to wane and efforts are made to eliminate the model minority myth entirely.