Departmental Bulletin Paper 〈Articles〉“Becoming Chinese”: Reconfiguration of Chinese American Identity in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

藤井, 爽

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (1989) is one of the best-selling Asian American novels, but it has been criticized for its portrayal of Chinese and Chinese American women and commodification of Chinese culture while enjoying praise from feminist reading for its positive representation of mother-daughter relationships. This academic,specifically Asian American studies’ tendency to belittle the novel’s handling of Chinese American identity has left a scholarly misconception about authentic Chinese American identity. This paper focuses on one daughter heroine and argues how she remembers and reconfi gures images of her Chinese mother and her relationship with her mother in order to reveal her subtle shift away from the idea of authentic Chinese identity. Using a feminist idea of matrophobia, I will demonstrate how she changes self-hatred against her Chinese mother and how this change helps her heal traumatic memories of racism and reconfigures the idea of being a Chinese American woman. Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club(1989) has elicited many arguments, both positive and negative, both from Chinese or other ethnic Americans and white Americans,concerning representation of Chinese immigrants, Chinese Americans’ identity and their culture. The monologue narratives of three Chinese mothers and four American daughters are triggered by one mother, Suyuan’s death, and they tell their stories two times in turn, just like playing mah-jong games, which are a main event of the Joy Luck Club, a gathering formed by the four mothers. Although a literary critic claims that the novel has nothing to do with racial or feminist concerns as if Tan lightly treated them (Grice 44), it tries to redefine what it means to be a Chinese American. “Becoming Chinese,” which one of the daughters, Jing-mei, mentions as she enters China, is a quite provocative phrase that challenges the notion of authentic Chinese(American) subject. Despite common readings that the novel follows and reinforces traditional Chinese American images, it actually tries to shift its definitive representation and turns Chinese American experience as something you cannot define as the one. Jing-mei’s optimistic and idealistic solution to the question may not satisfy all Asian Americans, but it still is a way to survive in America, in which she once had to deny her ethnic heritage before coming to terms with it. This paper will discuss how Jing-mei comes to terms with her Chinese American identity while reconfiguring it. I will follow mainly Jing-mei’s story to analyze her quest to Chinese American identity in terms of her relationship with her mother as a Chinese cultural reference in order to illuminate elusiveness of ethnic categories. I chose Jing-mei’s narrative as my main interest because it functions as an organizer of all the sixteen stories with two of her stories placed at the beginning and ending of the novel and the other two in the three mothers’ sections. Also, Jing-mei is the only daughter who actually visits China, where she mentions this interesting idea of “becoming Chinese.” It also must be noted that this reading is not to generalize the other three daughters’ narrative. The three daughters’ stories actually prove that there is no authentic narrative of Chinese American, which is my basic stance and the point that is going to be proved in this paper. First, I will see how the daughters deal with Chineseness, which is represented not only as those Chinese heritages from their mothers, but also their ethnicity perceived by the mainstream culture, and then I will analyze how she revises her notion of her Chinese American identity through memories.
著者専攻: アメリカ文学

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