On Racial Stereotyping

Authored by: Leslie Bow

The Routledge Handbook of Asian American Studies

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  December  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415738255
eBook ISBN: 9781315817514
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813927


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As an adult, graphic novelist Gene Yang was startled to discover his childhood rendering of an ethnic joke in an old sketchbook. In his cartoon, a buck-toothed Mandarin giggles, “Me Chinese. Me play joke. Me go pee pee in your Coke.” 1 A Chinese American, Yang puzzled over his ability to access American racial stereotypes while refusing to see them as self-implicating. Was the stereotype such a gross exaggeration that it bore no relationship to his self-conception? Or is this wishful thinking? Caricature would find pointed use in his first graphic novel, American Born Chinese: Chin-Kee, the excruciating embodiment of all Chinese stereotypes, is sent to test the novel’s self-hating protagonist. Their encounter culminates in a kung-fu movie parody, a battle symbolizing Asian Americans’ struggle with the reviled form of misrepresentation popularly known as the stereotype.

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