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Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture Paperback – October 15, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 271 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press (October 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566397537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566397537
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As Edward W. Said noted in his groundbreaking study, Orientalism, the Asian is the eternal "other." Asian Americans, whether immigrants or native born, are subject to a variety of overlapping stereotypes that label them as "not American." What is "American" and what is not is defined in part by popular culture. In Orientals, Robert G. Lee analyses a broad range of artifacts of American pop culture--from silent films to blockbuster movies, popular magazines to pulp fiction, and stage dramas to 19th-century songs--to reveal the history of these definitions.

Lee identifies six representations of Asian Americans--the pollutant, the coolie worker, the deviant, the yellow peril, the model minority, and the gook--and notes how, when, and why they emerged. As Lee notes, "each of these representations was constructed in a specific historical moment, marked by a shift in class relations accompanied by cultural crisis." For example, the image of the subservient "coolie" emerged as an undercutting threat to the developing white working class in the 1870s and 1880s, while the image of the Asian as model minority appeared in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s and was held up to African Americans and Latinos as a "successful case of 'ethnic' assimilation" and a model for nonpolitical upward mobility. Well illustrated throughout, Lee's impressive study uses the Asian American experience as a window through which to examine what makes a person a "real" American. Orientals is an excellent addition to the scholarly literature. --C.B. Delaney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Lee (American civilization, Brown Univ.) presents six images of "the Oriental": pollutant of white culture, coolie laborer, effeminate deviant, yellow peril threat, model minority, and gook. Lee identifies these images by reviewing a wide range of popular American literature, including films, folktales, and songs from late 19th-century California to the present day. Scholars as well as general readers will be interested in Lee's identification of the conservative "racial bigot" and the "national racial liberal." Readers may wonder why he does not place into perspective popular fiction such as Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club (LJ 2/15/89) or the movie Dim Sum, instead focusing on the enduring historical sterotypes represented by Flower Drum Song, Fu Manchu, and The World of Suzie Wong. Still, Lee does an excellent job with the historical material. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries.?Peggy Spitzer Christoff, Oak Park, IL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tanja M. Laden on March 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert G. Lee eloquently and effectively illustrates how the construct of race in America operated to perpetuate racist notions towards Asian American immigrants. The history of ascribed racism towards Asian Americans had its roots in the mid 19th Century, and it operated under an American system of placing cultural meaning on the body. Racist notions toward Asian Americans were created chiefly to solidify the American sense of nationality and cohesion that was absent, and needed in order to facilitate American identity. Lee examines how racist ideas were perpetuated and transmitted through popular culture in the "six faces of the Oriental," the pollutant, the coolie, the deviant, the yellow peril, the model minority, and the gook. These caricatures implied that all Asian Americans fell in to one of six categories, and this stereotyping precluded most Asian Americans from functioning as individuals in American society. Systematic "typing" of the Asian Americans in America, Lee argues, functioned to maintain systems that were larger and more socially driven. These complex social practices were not lost on many Asian Americans, however, and many Asian Americans consistently challenged the unfair ideology of a nation that at once promoted individuality while denying the right to that individuality though six invariable types. Lee cleverly illustrates how each of the six types gave meaning to the Asian body by showing how each stereotype functioned at different periods in America's history. America's first encounter with the Asian Americans quickly led to the idea that they were "pollutants" in their religious practices, or were, as Lee calls them, ""Heathen Chinee' on God's Free Soil.Read more ›
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17 of 28 people found the following review helpful By "claremonde99" on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This text is an interesting overview to the constant redefinition that society has in creating and labeling the term "Asian". I do not believe that the author chose to title the book "Orientals" as a derogatory term, rather as a word that has been misconstrued within western ideology. The title itself brings attention to the constant shift and misrepresentation of Asians within Westernized culture.
Being Asian American alone is no longer enough it seems within society. Most individuals currently label themselves as Filipino-American, Vietnamese-American, Korean-American, Indian-American, etc. The whole notion of how a large group such as Asians identify themselves nowadays is too large, and complicated of a subject to discuss in a literary commentary such as this one. I do admit that word "Orient" is a term that has been used to label goods and products; it is a term that misrepresented whole nations of people. But one has to remember too that its origins derive from a period and society that considered people of color, and foreign locals as "goods" rather than people or individuals.
In reference to this text, it is an informative text but not one of the best published. I would suggest Fanon, (Stuart) Hall, Spivak, and Trinh if one were interested in searching about Diaspora and identity.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chris on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Didn't enjoy the book, nothing to do with condition or anything. I'm just not a fan of these types of books and I ended up not needing it for class.
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