Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring '09 Book Announcements

SWIMMING IN THE AMERICAN: A MEMOIR AND SELECTED WRITINGS by Hiroshi Kashiwagi; Edited by Tamiko Nimura (Asian American Curriculum Project, $15 paper)

"Japanese American literature just got a little deeper with the publication of Hiroshi Kashiwagi's Swimming in the American ... Kashiwagi has written a memoir of a No-No Boy ... I hope that Japanese America deserves the good writing, the quality of verifiable fact, and the daring of AACP's publishing venture."

- Frank Chin, author & playwright, Born in the USA, Chicken Coop Chinaman, and Donald Duk

"Hiroshi Kashiwagi's Swimming in the American is quite a bit more than its modest subtitle would suggest... The main narrative tells of [...] the shameful internment of Japanese Americans; of the development and distillation of a Japanese-American sensibility in the man and the writer; and ultimately the journey of the human soul.... [But it is] as much about Mr. Kashiwagi's lifelong passion: reading, writing, and acting. This is a long and diverse life, well lived, well reflected upon, and above all, well and enthrallingly told."

--John Philbrook, Librarian, San Francisco Public Library

For more information and to order the book, please visit

Book Announcement


Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Edited by Tamiko Nimura

(Asian American Curriculum Project, $15 paper)

The book gathers together plays that chronicle the experiences of Japanese Americans from the hardships of the Depression of the 1930s, through the bitterness and dislocation of the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, through the rise of Asian American consciousness and pride in the late 1960s and 1970s to today. "Laughter and False Teeth" is perhaps the most famous of the plays presented since it was included in The Big AIIIEEEEE!: An Anthology of Chinese American and Japanese American Literature (1991), a staple book used in college Asian American classes across the country. Procuring false teeth in an internment camp becomes a tragicomic observation of the breakdown of morality and decency in such places where even the dentist has to be bribed to do substandard work. "Kisa Gotami" (The Parable of the Mustard Seed) has the distinction of being George Takei's first role as an actor, a decade before his pioneering work as Sulu on Star Trek. "The Betrayed" a play that was included in Hiroshi's earlier book published by AACP, Swimming in the American, is perhaps the most powerful work, presenting as it does the fundamental conflicts between those Japanese Americans that cooperated with the government to prove their loyalty as Americans during the years of internment and those that resisted because the government had violated their rights as Americans.

These are just a few of the plays in this book composed over the past 60 years and stored literally in a shoe box.

For more information and to order the book, please visit

Performing Americanness: Race, Class, and Gender in Modern African-American and Jewish-American Literature by Catherine Rottenberg

Dartmouth College Press
University Press of New England
$50.00 Cloth, 978-1-58465-682-1

A comparative analysis of modern African-American and Jewish-American narratives

In Performing Americanness, Catherine Rottenberg raises important questions about what it means to be American through a wholly original analysis of modern African-American and Jewish-American literature. The book illustrates how the novels of Nella Larsen, James Weldon Johnson, Anzia Yezierska, and Abraham Cahan help us to understand the specific ways that gender, class, race, and ethnicity have regulated the identity formation of African and Jewish Americans, as well as the ways these categories have helped produce and sustain social stratification in the United States more generally. Through the author's comparative lens, new light is shed on fundamental internal and external conflicts--especially of identity--that took place as both groups sought to move from margin to center by carving out a niche for themselves in mainstream American society.

"[Performing Americanness] is a rare, if not unprecedented, effort to compare narratives that trace the immigration of Jews to the United States with the 'assimilation' experience of African Americans . . . an erudite, carefully argued, and singular achievement."--Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley

"This ambitious and theoretically informed work promises to become an invaluable resource for scholars in ethnic studies, African-American studies in particular."--Donald Pease, Avalon Foundation Chair of the Humanities, Dartmouth College

Currently a fellow at the University of Michigan's Frankel Institute, CATHERINE ROTTENBERG will be an assistant professor in the Foreign Languages and Linguistics and Communications Departments at Ben-Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Israel, beginning in 2008.

Barbara Briggs
Publicity and Subsidiary Rights
University Press of New England
603-448-1533 x. 233

One Court Street
suite 250
Lebanon, NH 03766

Christopher Douglas

As an anthropology student studying with Franz Boas, Zora Neale Hurston recorded African American folklore in rural central Florida, studied hoodoo in New Orleans and voodoo in Haiti, talked with the last ex-slave to survive the Middle Passage, and collected music from Jamaica. Her ethnographic work would serve as the basis for her novels and other writings in which she shaped a vision of African American Southern rural folk culture articulated through an antiracist concept of culture championed by Boas: culture as plural, relative, and long-lived. Meanwhile, a very different antiracist model of culture learned from Robert Park's sociology allowed Richard Wright to imagine African American culture in terms of severed traditions, marginal consciousness, and generation gaps.

In A Genealogy of Literary Multiculturalism, Christopher Douglas uncovers the largely unacknowledged role played by ideas from sociology and anthropology in nourishing the politics and forms of minority writers from diverse backgrounds. Douglas divides the history of multicultural writing in the United States into three periods. The first, which spans the 1920s and 1930s, features minority writers such as Hurston and D'Arcy McNickle, who were indebted to the work of Boas and his attempts to detach culture from race. The second period, from 1940 to the mid-1960s, was a time of assimilation and integration, as seen in the work of authors such as Richard Wright, Jade Snow Wong, John Okada, and Ralph Ellison, who were influenced by currents in sociological thought. The third period focuses on the writers we associate with contemporary literary multiculturalism, including Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Frank Chin, Ishmael Reed, and Gloria Anzaldúa. Douglas shows that these more recent writers advocated a literary nationalism that was based on a modified Boasian anthropology and that laid the pluralist grounds for our current conception of literary multiculturalism.

Ultimately, Douglas's “unified field theory” of multicultural literature brings together divergent African American, Asian American, Mexican American, and Native American literary traditions into one story: of how we moved from thinking about groups as races to thinking about groups as cultures-and then back again.


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