I was mesmerized by Jeff Yang’s article about “Asian Chick Lit” in today’s SF Chronicle. It describes the decline in “regular” (um, read “white”) chick lit at the same time as an explosion of Asian-American authors writing about young, professional, sexy Asian protagonists. Is one of them REALLY called China Dolls? Yes, it is. Cringe. Okay, I haven’t read the book, but the title alone had me wanting to claw my own eyes out.
Then there’s an Asian-American author who says:
“I’m an Asian American novelist who’s written a chick lit novel, but my book is not an ‘Asian American chick lit novel,'” says Julie Dam, a senior editor at People magazine whose foray into the genre, “Some Like It Haute,” was first published in hardcover a year ago February. “My character doesn’t have an ethnicity attached, and that’s a conscious decision: I wanted to think that on some level, we’ve moved beyond skin color, that we can tell universal stories.”
I had to think about it. What does that mean: “doesn’t have ethnicity attached.” That means WHITE. We’ve “moved beyond skin color?” Excuse me while I pass out into a puddle of my own vomit.
When I first started writing fiction, about ten thousand years ago, I also tended to “mask” my characters and present them “without ethnicity attached.” I was worried that nobody would be able to relate to them if they were too overtly ethnic. Well, after about a year of that I saw the internalized racism in THAT.
I was also dismayed to read that author Mia King is not really named Mia King. Her name is Darien Hsu Gee. It really bummed me out to discover this, because I had recently been reading “Mia King’s” blog and was liking it, happy for her that she was publishing her novel. Her explanation for choosing a much less “ethnic” name?
My real name is Darien Hsu Gee. I chose to write under a pen name because my husband, Darrin Gee, had a nonfiction golf book, “The Seven Principles of Golf: Mastering The Mental Game On and Off the Golf Course,” being released a month after “Good Things” (how’s that for coincidence?!). I thought writing under a pen name would eliminate any confusion.
She thought golfers would confuse her with her husband? Uh, okayyyy. Nice explanation. The whole thing reeks of “I’m not really Asian! I’m just like everybody else!” and frankly, it makes me sad.
Young Asian-American authors talk about wanting to move “beyond” the Joy Luck Club, but if this is progress, I’ll eat my computer mouse.