Multiple Histories Made Unitarily Personal

      "Charlie Chan is Dead II: At Home in the World"

      An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction

      Edited with an Introduction by Jessica Hagedorn

      Prefaced by Elaine H. Kim

      Penguin Books

      573 pages



Multiple Histories Made Unitarily Personal

review by Multiple Histories Made Unitarily Personal



The reality is Charlie Chan is not quite dead and the concept of home varies with the ever-changing tide of circumstance. Borders are continually shifting and the ideas that help draw them never remain stagnant. A revised and updated sequel to the earlier Charlie Chan anthology, this particular collection emphasises the catch-22 of being "at home in the world", which ventures beyond mere Asian-American representation. The Asian-American experience is but a departure point that declares a misplaced origin is what affects everyone regardless of race, creed or religion. It is not a reclamation of cultural heritage but a balancing act of both adaptation and resistance to these contemporary times where although the world has grown smaller, disparity is increasingly a harsh reality. These are not stories replete with academic jargon that we have become habituated and thus hardened to, concepts like Post-colonialism, Orientalism and all that intellectual materialism we cling onto to explain these everyday rifts. No, these stories are self-reflections of simple and essential human dynamics that flow and clash with the change. History is personal and the underlying confusion is made resonant by letting go of the basic fiction which is identity.  I believe we are past that stage of discovering our equality. Has not 9/11 taught us anything? It would be a hilarity to ignore how far we've evolved and instead persist to search for our politically correct roots amid the rubble, packaging our grief management like a product of nostalgia, mistaking it for authenticity. We would be passing too much by, including these voices rich with eccentricity and fallibilty. In the end, every voice in this book pleads not for us to probe the stereotypes, but break the conventions of who each character is supposed and expected to live themselves by. And by voices, I mean not just those of the writers and the characters they've created but the ones that inhabit our consciousness daily. We hear them because we live them, even those that are dissonant, screaming bloody murder. So listen carefully.


Gina Apostol, Cunanan's Wake.


"I love every woman I see, even the ugly ones. I'm a connoisseur of humanity, its lumps and marks and tics."



Bharati Mukherjee, The Management of Grief.



"We've been melted down and recast as a new tribe."


Lisa Asagi, Fascination, Gravity, and Deeply Done Kiss.}



"I can't go to sleep. I don't have to. So then I will have to watch. You know, the earth is nothing but fire contained within itself by tons of ocean and degrees of cooled thickness, acres of rock. Every plot of land, horizontal then vertical, began as an island. They say that biology began on this planet as reaction to the accident. Survival. A self-taught, half-expected emotion whose logic was not understood until millions of afternoon proved enough to hold into evening."


New York, July 26th, 2004