“No-No Boy’s Dilemma: Game Theory and Japanese American Internment Literature,” Modern Fiction Studies (forthcoming, Fall 2014).
Writing Sample: To view the full version of this article, including highlighted sections that were omitted due to space constraints, please click here. Please do not cite or circulate this document without the express permission of the author.
Abstract: This essay, adapted from a dissertation chapter, opens with three literary accounts of the internment (1942-45) alongside the concept of game theory developed by John von Neumann and other RAND mathematicians. A branch of applied mathematics that would eventually form the backbone of U.S. Cold War foreign policy as a means of predicting enemy behavior the way one would an opponent in poker, game theory has often been considered a defining discourse of 1950s America. I argue, however, that a decade before it was being applied to a red menace, it was being used against a yellow one in the form of 100,000 Japanese Americans whose “inscrutable intentions” ostensibly presented a grave threat to Allied victory. Redefining the internment as a strategic game played not only by the American government but by internees themselves, this chapter juxtaposes the works of John Okada and Milton Murayama alongside one written by the often-overlooked Hiroshi Nakamura, whose remarkable “documentary novel” Treadmill remains the only known internment novel to have been written during, rather than after, the event.
“English before Engrish: Asian American Poetry’s Unruly Tongue,” Comparative Literature Studies 51.1 (2014): 78–105. PDF
Abstract: Testing the limits of the genre that Timothy Yu has recently defined as Asian American experimental or avant-garde poetry, this article uses the poetry of John Yau, Brian Kim Stefans, Fred Wah and others to demonstrate how Wittgensteinian language-games provided a compelling semantic and semiotic framework for these postwar poets’ experiments with “normative” forms of language as well as Asian American identity.
“American Rules and Chinese Faces: The Games of Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club’,” MELUS (forthcoming, 2014).
Abstract: This essay reconsiders Asian American literature during the late 1980s and early 90s, an era which saw not only its share of “culture wars” but also a series of “canon wars” being waged in both institutional and popular domains. Rereading what has arguably remained simultaneously the most celebrated and most vilified Asian American novel to date – Amy Tan’s 1989 The Joy Luck Club – through the games of mahjongg and chess which inform the text’s structural as well as thematic architecture, I argue that Tan’s complex reworking of ludic tropes allows her to posit entirely novel formations of inter- and intragenerational kinship. As a game which transforms four Chinese immigrant women into “sisters” and “Aunties” to one another’s children despite having no literal blood connection, mahjongg emerges throughout the novel not only as a distinctly “Chinese” game but as an Asian American one, allowing both the Joy Luck Club players and their children to redefine the meaning of chance or luck as simultaneous constraint and opportunity. At the same time, chess becomes not so much the “Western” counterpart to mahjongg as a means for the second generation to negotiate the expectations of their immigrant mothers and, as Chinese Americans, to discover that “fair play” connotes a form of justice which ultimately has more in common with ludic than legal definitions of equality.
“Racial Role-Play: The Fantasy of Identity in Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior & Toni Morrison’s Beloved,” (submitted).
Abstract: This essay juxtaposes one of the foundational moments in role-playing game (RPG) history – the release of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 – alongside two of the “founding mothers” of twentieth-century minority American fiction: Maxine Hong Kingston and Toni Morrison. The latter’s attempts to come to terms with the Asian American legacy of immigration and the African American legacy of slavery, respectively, reveal a remarkable homology (?) with the contemporaneous attempts of fantasy role-playing game designers and writers of the first role-playing books (colloquially known as “Choose your own adventure” books). For both groups, “realism” was, in more ways than one, an obstacle to be overcome through narrative imagination, turning “character development” into a literal process of self-authorship and offering access to radically innovative configurations of memory, identity, and agency.
“A History of the Los Angeles City Market: 1930-1950,” Gum Saan Journal, 32 (2009): 14-39.
Abstract: A combination of archival research, sociological analysis and oral histories, this article examines the emergence of one of Southern California’s monuments to the agricultural and entrepreneurial energies of its Asian American population during the inter-war years, documenting the various racial, institutional and political aspects of the Los Angeles City Produce Market as it came to prominence during a defining two-decade period.
Other Publications & Presentations
Review of Managing Multicultural Lives: Asian American Professionals and the Challenge of Multiple Identities by Pawan Dhingra, Journal of Asian American Studies, 12 (2009): 226-29.
“Vanguards of Modernity: David Eng Considers the Queer Space of Stanley Kwan’s Lan Yu,” UCLA Center for the Study of Women Newsletter (2008): 11-13.
Abstract: This presentation showcases the most recent advances made by researchers at the Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science & Engineering on the effect of black carbon and aerosols on mountainous climate systems. My contributions will also be featured in a forthcoming article, which will be posted here upon publication.