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Professor Publishes First Book on Asian Americans' Contributions in New England

By Lori Wright, Media Relations
July 8, 2009

Monica Chiu, associate professor of English, has published a book on the history, culture, and role of Asian Americans in New England, the first collection to address Asian and Asian American contributions to the region.

“Asian Americans in New England: Culture and Community,” published by University Press of New England, explores 19th century Chinese American friendship albums, Japanese American acrobats, the 20th century influence of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on regional and national Asian arts collections, contemporary Vietnamese American community art, and the construction of Asian Indians and religion in New England, among other topics.

The collection highlights a broad range of Asian American communities and historical experiences. From the poignant writings of a young Chinese immigrant to the influence of hip-hop in a New Hampshire Lao American community, the collection seeks to establish a regional template for the study of Asian American lives and art far from the West Coast. The essays provide a record of particular achievements, as well as an understanding of the rich Asian American culture in New England, along with an analysis of the depiction of New England Asian Americans, one of the fastest growing minority populations in the region.

“If we look back to the region’s reception of ‘Orientals’ at the turn into the 20th century, we find curious New England audiences intrigued and surprised by Asian visitors, many of whom had never seen Asians before. Their reception and visibility afford us a window into understanding what political, economic, and social practices influenced New Englanders’ acceptance or rejection of Asian visitors and later second-generation Asian Americans and Asian refugees. What Asian Americans in New England created from that reception, as well as from their own creative integration into regional citizenship, are the artistic and cultural legacies presented in this volume,” Chiu says.

Chiu’s book has received critical acclaim from her colleagues.

“A sparkling collection of essays across disciplinary formations, ‘Asian Americans in New England’ reveals the reciprocal impress of New England and Asian America. Moreover, this foundational volume illustrates how spatial distinctions, whether regional, national, or transnational, are human creations and as such invite observance and transgression,” said Gary Okihiro, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University and author of “Island World: A History of Hawai’i and the United States.”

“This collection deals another crushing but healthy blow to the West Coast-centric Asian American Studies paradigm, all but assuring the continuing growth of this vibrant field in race and ethnic studies. The book’s contributors challenge the dominant historical images of Asians in America as manual laborers, shopkeepers, and victims of crude nativism, without minimizing the impact of racialization and orientalism on community and identity formations,” said Evelyn Hu-DeHart, professor of history and director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University.

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