Illustration by Joan Wong
English PhD candidate Jane Hu has just published a scintillating reflection on contemporary Asian-Anglophone fiction in The New Yorker‘s “Page Turner” series. In the piece, Hu explores how a clutch of contemporary Asian-Anglophone authors, from Kazuo Ishiguro and Ed Park to Tao Lin and Weike Wang, have favored narrators who project an unusual sense of detachment or impersonality, often associated with the stereotype of Oriental “inscrutability.”
Why, Hu asks, might Asian-Anglophone authors—even when not representing Asian characters—be drawn to this register of voice? To answer that question, she launches an intellectual investigation that takes her both into a set of novels, and into a set of conversations with novelists and critics (including Berkeley English PhD Sunny Xiang, now a professor at Yale). The piece is an auspicious example of how literary criticism and literary journalism might be powerfully brought together.
Admirers of this piece may also wish to read Hu’s two other pieces for The New Yorker‘s “Page Turner” series, on the life and legacy of queer theorist Eve Sedgwick and the revival of Irish writer Maeve Brennan.