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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: May 2021

Chapter 8 - Lin Yutang and the Invention of Asian America, 1949

from Part II - Transitions Approached through Authors, Texts, Concepts, and History


Most scholars regard Lin Yutang’s 1949 novel, Chinatown Family, as a failure. The novel did not sell many copies when it was published, and it failed to impress critics. Decades on, the novel has been largely dismissed as reactionary and crude by literary scholars, especially Asian Americanist critics. Readers then and now dismiss Lin’s attempts to create a definitive work of “Asian American literature” but this chapter carefully reconstructs the novel’s making in order to explore the potential affordances of Lin’s failure. What would it mean to take seriously the novel’s chief virtues, otherwise seen as limitations, such as “collaboration,” as the basis for rethinking the history of the Asian American novel, and where it might go today?

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