Annotation: Scott Kurashige’s The Shifting Grounds of Race (2007)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation was written in reference to my paper on Nina Revoyr’s Southland, as yet, still untitled.

Kurashige, Scott. “Introduction.” The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2007. 1-12. Print.

In the “Introduction” of his book, Kurashige accentuates the need to examine the complex interrelations between Black and Japanese Americans that helped transform Los Angeles into a multicultural “world city” (11). He traces the historical trajectory of these two minority groups, noting that while both experienced similar forms of racial oppression before WWII, they “were subsequently thrust onto different historical paths” in the post war era (4). Kurashige contextualizes this divergence by demonstrating how white hegemonic discourses that classified Japanese and more generally all Asian Americans as the “model minority” was an “ideological construction” used to uphold the success of US liberal democracy and spur divisive antagonism between minority groups. The myth suggests that if Japanese Americans were able to attain a middle class status in the United States, then Blacks should assume responsibility for their own failure to achieve similar socio-economic success. Kurashige emphasizes that the popularization of the “model minority” narrative not only problematically obscures the lingering, haunting effects of internment on the Japanese American community but also perpetuates the erasure of those who were never able to attain upward mobility. In his “Introduction” Kurashige also attempts to expose and recover the largely overlooked” history of Black and Japanese American solidarity in the Westside, ranging from West Jefferson as early as the 1920s to postwar Crenshaw as late as the 1970s and beyond” (10). He powerfully demonstrates the deep interconnections between these two minority groups in his example of “Little Tokyo,” which after the forced evacuation of Japanese Americans, become a predominantly black community that “African American entrepreneurs and community leaders dubbed Bronzeville” (1).

Kurashige emphasizes that while many people predicted that the with the end of internment and the war, the return of Japanese Americans to Los Angeles would spark “violent turf battles,” the two groups completely astonished the public as activists from both sides began to work together to achieve “interethnic political cooperation” and stimulate more interaction between the two communities (2). Kurashige demonstrates how this cultural exchange and syncretism allowed LA to emerge as a multicultural “world city” that can boast of a “Crenshaw institution like the Holiday Bowl,” where people can order from a menu containing both African and Asian cuisine and bowl in this diverse environment (11).

In Southland, Revoyr presents the story of Jackie Ishida, a Japanese American girl, who is initially ignorant and entirely detached from her family’s past and immigrant roots. She is disturbed to see so many black faces at her grandfather’s funeral and only registers how different they are from her own. As the novel progresses, however, Jackie begins to steadily uncover the complex history she shares with members of the black LA community not only in terms of shared experiences of racism and oppression but also intimate family relations. I argue that in this this respect, Revoyr’s Southland does the same work as Kurashige’s book in tracing the connections between Black and Japanese Americans in LA and how specific historical processes compelled a “forgetting” of these ties.

Annotation: Bruce Sterling’s “Slipstream”

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation is for a paper I am currently writing for my ENGL 391W course at Queens College on Science Fiction. I will be conducting an analysis of the science fictional and magical realist elements in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange and the novel’s implications on contemporary discourses about globalization. See my prospectus here.

Sterling, Bruce. “Slipstream.” www.eff.org, n.d. Web. 4 April 2010.

In this article Sterling discusses the supposed “death” of science fiction in contemporary society, claiming that while SF used to offer “some kind of coherent social vision” and resonated with what was “actually ‘happening,’… in the popular imagination,” today it is essentially devoid of meaning. He denounces what SF has become, “a self-perpetuating commercial power-structure” that capitalizes on “category marking” and the confidence of having its own prescribed “bookstore rackspace.” Although Sterling’s tone is perhaps too glib and undermines the work of contemporary SF authors, he does point to a significant shift in public attitudes away from traditional science fiction texts to those that occupy a strange in-between space, “writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel.” Sterling labels these works as “slipstream,” a body of literature with its own unique characteristics that, he claims, are “essentially alien to… SF’s intrinsic virtues.” Throughout the article Sterling attempts to identify what the specific qualities of slipstream may be, but the closest he comes to a definition is the assertion: “It seems to me that the heart of slipstream is an attitude of peculiar aggression against ‘reality.’ These are fantasies of a kind, but not fantasies which are ‘futuristic’ or ‘beyond the fields we know. These books tend to sarcastically tear at the structure of ‘everyday life.’” By demonstrating how slipstream involves a different kind of fantasy making, one that is inextricably intertwined with mundane, “everyday life,” Sterling proposes an interesting lens for me to examine Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange. In addition to analyzing the text as a representative of slipstream fiction, I want to demonstrate how its structural and stylistic intertwining of the bizarre and the mundane also serves as a commentary on the blurring of bodies and boundaries in globalization.

Annotation: Eve Sedgwick’s “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay” (1991)

Peer-Review: 0

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. “How to Bring Your Kids up Gay.” Social Text.  29 (1991): 18-27. Print.

Opening her article with statistics of adolescent suicide rates that are disproportionately higher among gays, Sedgwick attacks the inefficiency of current psychoanalysis and psychiatry in addressing the needs for guiding gay development among children and adolescents.  Instead, the field, though it removed sexual object-choice as pathology, equates gender as natural to the given biological sex as the sole form of proper subjectivity and condemns deviance from this gender as a pathological disorder.  She critiques the works of psychoanalysts—mainly Friedman and Green—that align gender assignment as essential to a healthy self.  She argues that while many people now allegedly adopt a more tolerant attitude towards existent gays, they object to the development of homosexuality among kids and adolescents, which impedes the wish for a world in which gays do not exist.  On the contrary, institutions more frequently take efforts to turn these kids away from homosexuality, rather than facilitating their development.  In a broader sense, Sedgwick shows that the privileging of essentialist explanations of sexuality among scholars is futile in the hope for the dignified treatment, rather than the interference with homosexual bodies, and that there is ultimately no theoretical safe haven for queers without the affirmation of desires and the need for gay people in the world.