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Honor Bound: Renegotiating Debt and Family Ties in Asian American Literature

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Title: Honor Bound: Renegotiating Debt and Family Ties in Asian American Literature
Author(s): Villanueva, Corina A.
Advisor(s): Chiang, Mark
Contributor(s): Michaels, Walter; Messenger, Chris; Barnes, Natasha; Mann, Harveen
Department / Program: English
Graduate Major: English
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Degree: PhD, Doctor of Philosophy
Genre: Doctoral
Subject(s): Asian American literature Honor Bound Korean American literature Kingston, Maxine Hong Ng, Fae Myenne The Woman Warrior Bone Typical American Fifth Chinese Daughter Jade Snow Wong Leonard Chang The Fruit n' Food Chang-rae Lee Native Speaker, Chinese American Literature debt family work
Abstract: My dissertation, Honor Bound: Renegotiating Debt and Family Ties in Asian American Literature, focuses on how symbolic debt in the context of the family impacts the Asian American individual. I focus on Jade Snow Wong’s Fifth Chinese Daughter, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior, Gish Jen’s Typical American, Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone, Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker, and Leonard Chang’s The Fruit n’ Food. First-generation Asian American parents believe that the American dream can be achieved through the model minority stereotype. I argue it is impossible to completely adhere to the model minority ideal; it is impossible to be completely self-sufficient and the strong work ethic has an overwhelming emotional and physical toll. The parents’ inability to adhere to this ideal produces a debt: the parents are dissatisfied with their lives in America, so their children are obligated to fill the void by becoming more successful model minorities, but this expectation is also impossible to fulfill. The immigrant family’s dynamics revolve around conflicts regarding the best way to pursue the American dream. The parents’ love for their children is contingent on their children’s devotion to repayment of the debt. While the children may strive for their parents’ approval, they resent the contingency of their parents’ love for them, and view their parents as unfair for pressuring them to honor their debts. The authors demonstrate how the model minority stereotype does not work for the parents or the children, because it makes them feel alienated, unfulfilled, and unhappy, whether or not they become successful. The self-sufficient nature of the model minority makes it more difficult for these people to honor their debts to each other, especially when the children mistakenly believe their parents do not need the emotional support that they pressure their children to provide. Since the parents “sacrifice” themselves in their work so that their children will have better lives in America, the children feel indebted to their parents. Without this sense of indebtedness, the children would not feel obligated to obey their parents or do the work that their parents want them to do.
Issue Date: 2015-10-21
Genre: thesis
Rights Information: Copyright 2015 Corina A. Villanueva
Date Available in INDIGO: 2017-10-22
Date Deposited: 2015-08

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