It’s Tuesday! Time for a book recommendation. I deem I-Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita as the one novel to read if you want to understand the foundation of Asian America—its culture and art, its politics and aspirations. This book pushes aesthetic boundaries as seen in form, and it innovates in its delivery on every level. I would make this required reading for Asian American Studies and stick this on a university level American Literature syllabus. It’s fun! It’s cool. It’s cinematic. There’s something for everyone. This. Is. Art.
For my fellow Asian Americans who missed Asian American studies class (there was no class, you couldn’t be bothered, your parents wanted you to be more practical, you felt socially rejected by the guy who was the Asian American Studies cool person, this is your go-to one book you should read now…and in doing so, you can gain some cool points). This is the story of how and why Asian America came into being, how Asian people began to construct an American identity. Yamashita chronicles the cultural moment when Asian Americans declared themselves part of the creative American project and galvanized their communities, built alliances across ethnicities and races, and paved the way for our existence today.
What you’ll find and understand—the how and whys of the Black Asian alliance, class struggle and belonging, the manong, communism, food, film, dance, global organization, performance art, jazz, the questions of gender, and romance and all the while asking: how do we belong?
I did a dissertation chapter on this book. I believe it to be one of the most significant novels written by an Asian American for its aesthetics, form, and content, and predict that this will be one of the books that will be read in the decades to come. It is ahead of its time. Read it now.
Learn to write in a class that honors your voice and story: Women’s Creative Writing Workshop, Divorce: Write Your Journey and Beyond, Power Journal: Write to Transform, Reading Poetry for Girls.
~teaching women the power of narrative~