On The Origins of Asian American Literature

Viet Thanh Nguyen

in Race and Resistance

Published in print April 2002 | ISBN: 9780195146998
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787890 | DOI:
 On The Origins of Asian American Literature

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


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This chapter re-examines the cultural and political legacies of Edith Eaton who wrote under the pen name Sui Sin Far, and her more commercially successful sister Winnifred Eaton who wrote under the pen name Onoto Watanna. These sisters, born of a Chinese mother and English father, were the first Asian American writers, publishing in the late 19th and early 20th century. Edith was identified as Chinese American and was long considered by Asian American critics as the origin of Asian American literature. Winnifred was identified as Japanese and was considered by these critics to be less authentic and less political. Resisting the idealism of Asian American literary criticism allows us to see that the political and ethical choices made by both the Eaton sisters are viable, and that these choices remain as valid options for Asian American intellectuals and other panethnic entrepreneurs today.

Keywords: Asian American; Chinese American; Edith Eaton; Winnifred Eaton; Sui Sin Far; intellectuals; Japanese; literature; panethnic; Onoto Watanna

Chapter.  12208 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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