Creative Storytelling and Critical Inquiry: Transnational and Undocumented Asian American Representation

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This presentation explores how a transnational perspective shifts popular understandings of Asian American immigrants and immigration by providing space to consider dynamic modes of minority representation. In particular, Kim focuses on the representation of undocumented Asian American immigrants—a phrase that subverts notions of the “model minority” but may simultaneously evoke stereotypical and unfavorable understandings of yet other marginalized populations. Last year, Kim’s research on undocumented Asian American immigrants, supported in part by the Center for the Humanities Grant, led her to engage in field work in Los Angeles, California. She conducted in-person interviews with undocumented Asian Americans and made site-visits to restaurant kitchens, department stores, and medical clinics in Koreatown that hired unauthorized employees. Additionally, the research trip included archival research that focused on the lived experiences of Asian American immigrants at the turn of the century who also demonstrate patterns of transnationality which will be highlighted in the presentation.

In the bigger picture, this research fuels Kim’s creative work as a fiction writer; her narratives encompass socio-economically divergent Asian American characters that traverse borders and challenge neatly boxed understandings of class, culture, and race. The stories of those who are not just “the silenced other” but whose deeply individuated lives come together to create families, communities, histories, and nations are central to developing narrative techniques that encompass plurality and complicate conventional notions of spatio-temporality. Thus, Kim will share an excerpt from her novel-in-progress featuring an undocumented Asian American character.