This semester has been one of much excitement for me. In the beginning of this semester I needed an HL requirement. My options were to take African American Literature or Asian Women’s Literature. I didn’t really know which one I wanted to take so I decided to show up to both classes and see which one I like best and take that one. I had taken a class a couple of years ago about civil rights and we read some really great books. One of them was called No-No Boy by John Okada. The book was really insightful. I learned a little bit about Japanese internment in school but it was never focused upon. We read a little bit about it and moved on. That’s actually not completely true, we watched a movie called Tora! Tora! Tora!
Anyway, back to the civil rights class. My professor for this course was a Japanese woman. She was a small girl when the internment took place and she shared her experience with us when we read No-No Boy. I thought it was really interesting, and I wondered why we had never spent the time in school going over the internment that we had spent going over other historical issues. The same reason that they never had time to discuss other cultures, I’m sure. After taking the course my interest was stimulated and I wanted to learn more about the Asian-American experience, but I never had the space in my schedule.
I went to this class on the first day and I enjoyed Priya’s energy so I decided I would take this course without going to the other one. I’m glad I took the course because I’ve learned a lot this semester. Besides fun terms that I will never use and more than likely forget like Rice Queen (amongst other things) I’ve learned about the experiences of Asian-American women. There are so many different stories to be told from so many different perspectives. The media shows you the super smart and talented Asian student, such as Kevin Gnapoor, Mathlete and Badass M.C. (Mean Girls) or the sexual seductress (pick a film) that every man wants to sleep with. That is when Asian characters are depicted at all. There are many different experiences and struggles within the Asian community, just as in other communities. They are not a monolith.
I also learned the stories of the submissive housewife who was afraid to stand up to her husband and the immigrant, who through the opening of a small family business became a strong, independent business woman. The Asian woman can be an underachiever (in whomever’s mind) who commits suicide because she can not live up to her parent’s standards or an overachiever who becomes an interpreter at a successful law firm. I learned about a porn star, and even a male prostitute, both of whom use sex to gain economic security. I have learned about everything from the traditional way of life to the modern way of life. Every topic has been one that I’ve never thought to discuss before.
Overall I have learned real life material in this course. I have taken Philosophy and all that humdrum, but the best is when you learn information that can be used in everyday life. How has this class changed my perception of Asian-Americans? How will my relationship to Asian-Americans change. I think it’s always beneficial to know what other people have gone through. It may not change the world, but I think it can only help to know where other people are coming from, if for nothing else to better connect with yourself.