Date of Award

12-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Ronald Emerick, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susan Comfort, Ph.D.

Abstract

In this dissertation, I examine selected works by three Chinese American women writers: Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1977), Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone (1993) and Gish Jen’s Typical American (1991). These texts present the American Dream as an important theme. I explore how the dreams of the Chinese were presented and why their dreams turn into nightmares. I address how social forces of race and class intertwine with gender in hegemonic formations. Such hegemonic formations mediated through Chinese exclusionary laws have racialized and feminized Chinese men and subjugated Chinese women. I argue that, portraying the Chinese characters as resistant via strategies of survival against their fate of being Asian and being poor, the authors have challenged the Oriental stereotypes of the Chinese as being the inferior, passive, silent, and victimized Other. In doing so, they have reconstructed Chinese American identities against those stereotypes. In the discussion of the selected texts, I also argue that the authors appeal to their transnational consciousness. With such consciousness, they share a strong desire to claim America — claiming their right to stay and be treated equally. Meanwhile, they show a renewed interest in their Asian legacy. Via the politics of differences, they are forging connections between Asia and Asian America. It is important that the Chinese in America be aware of their “in-between” space so as to survive and succeed in their struggle for the American Dream. This dissertation contains five chapters. Chapter I examines the American Dream concept, states the thesis, justifies the need for the study, and explains theoretical approaches. Chapter II, III, and IV are a study of the selected texts. I discuss the American Dream as experienced by the Chinese from the perspectives of race, class, and gender. Addressing the dreams and nightmares of the Chinese in America, I argue that the American Dream does not provide them with equal opportunities although they have contributed remarkably to building America. I conclude that negotiating ethnic and cultural differences for mutual understanding and respect, the authors convey that people should be treated equally regardless of their race, gender, class, and national origin.

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