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Partly ColoredAsian Americans and Racial Anomaly in the Segregated South$
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Leslie Bow

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814791325

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814791325.001.0001

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Productive Estrangement

Productive Estrangement

Racial-Sexual Continuums in Asian American as Southern Literature

(p.159) 5 Productive Estrangement
Partly Colored

Leslie Bow

NYU Press

This chapter situates the Asian outsider as a figure of productive alienation and imperfect correspondence, one who questions the ways in which lines of affiliation and connection become drawn and policed. In both Susan Choi's 1998 novel, The Foreign Student and Abraham Verghese's 1994 memoir, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, embracing “foreignness” from the position of postcolonial exile can be read as a means of suspending loyalty to stratified social structures, both racial and sexual. In both texts, sexual transgression precipitates a renewed understanding of not only the ways in which color lines are drawn, but how points of human division and intimacy, of home and belonging, might be reconfigured. In looking at these two narratives that center on the latency of racism “outed” by proximity to sexual “perversity,” the chapter suggests that Asian-American literature provides a conceptual frame for highlighting other lines that divide and connect.

Keywords:   Asian outsider, productive alienation, imperfect correspondence, Susan Choi, The Foreign Student, Abraham Verghese, My Own Country: A Doctor's Story of a Town and Its People in the Age of AIDS, Asian-American literature

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