Asian American War Stories: Trauma and Healing in Contemporary Asian American Literature Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Gibbons, Jeffrey
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • My dissertation argues that an important, though little acknowledged, aspect of Asian American subjectivity is the capacity to grapple with the enduring traumatic effects of American wars in Asia and develop unique paths towards healing and post-traumatic growth. Asian immigration to the United States in the twentieth century was profoundly influenced by the United States’ wars in Asia—from the war in the Philippines at the turn of the century, to the war in the Pacific, to the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Each of these conflicts produced extensive, long-term traumatic effects on the unintended casualties of war—those civilians, immigrants, and refugees affected by the violence and who struggled with their symptoms decades after the war’s end. Yet, in American war literature we rarely encounter narratives that reflect the post-war, post-traumatic journeys of these survivors. In this project I examine texts published between 1990 and 2014 that depict the war traumas and subsequent healing journeys of Asian American immigrants, refugees, and civilians affected by American wars in Asia. The narratives by Chang-rae Lee, Lan Cao, Nora Okja Keller, Julie Otsuka, and Lawson Inada reveal both the enduring impact and legacy of these wars that inevitably remain with the traumatic survivors and the diverse means by which they discover healing in the face of tremendous suffering. The remarkable texts that I examine in this dissertation demonstrate that while war and trauma are a constitutive part of Asian American history and identity, it does not come to define Asian American subjectivity—the struggle for survival and the desire for healing does.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Ahuja, Neel
  • Kim, Heidi
  • Halperin, Laura
  • Taylor, Matthew
  • Ho, Jennifer
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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