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East is West and West is East

East is West and West is East: Gender, Culture, and Interwar Encounters between Asia and America

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    East is West and West is East
    Book Description:

    Between 1919-1938, contact between Asia and America forced a reassessment of the normative boundaries of race, sex, gender, class, home, and nation. Karen Kuo's provocativeEast Is West and West Is Eastlooks closely at these global shifts to modernity.

    In her analysis of five forgotten texts-the 1930 film East Is West, Frank Capra's 1937 version ofLost Horizonand its 1973 remake, Younghill Kang's novelEast Goes West, and Baroness Ishimoto's memoir/manifesto,Facing Both Ways-Kuo elucidates how "Asia" played a role in shaping American gender and racial identities and how Asian authors understood modern America and its social, political, and cultural influence on Asia.

    Kuo asserts that while notions of white and Asian racial difference remain salient, sexual and gendered constructions of Asians and whites were at times about similarity and intersections as much as they were about establishing differences.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0588-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-XII)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In the 1930 filmEast Is West,international businessman Billy Benson brings a Chinese sing-song girl, Ming Toy, into his parental home. While abroad in China, Benson had urged his Chinese American friend Lo Sang Kee to buy Ming Toy from a notorious Chinese American gangster in order to protect her. Kee originally agrees to keep Ming Toy at his house in San Francisco’s Chinatown. However, she starts to become a problem—the Chinatown missionaries believe that she is a prostitute because of the way she behaves. Ming Toy unabashedly flirts with men on the street as she sits on...

  5. 1 How Yellow and White Women Are Sold: Controlling Chinese and White Female Sexuality and the Making of US Domesticity in East Is West
    (pp. 23-62)

    The beginning of the 1930 filmEast Is Westunabashedly introduces us to a Chinese “woman market,” where Lo Sang Kee (E. Alyn Warren), a Chinese American businessman, brings his good friend Billy Benson (Lew Ayres), an international man of trade and son of the US ambassador to China, to browse the nubile female goods that are bought and sold every day in the Chinese sex slave market. One Chinese “sing-song girl,” Ming Toy (Lupe Vélez), stands out as distinctively different from the other Chinese girls on the auction block: she is vocal and rebellious.¹ While the other Chinese girls...

  6. 2 Masculine Racial Formations in Younghill Kang’s East Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee
    (pp. 63-96)

    When Younghill Kang published his second novel,East Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee,in 1937, literary reviewers equated Kang with his fictional character and narrator, Chungpa Han, seeing both as successfully integrated Asians who became Americans. ANew York Timesreviewer wrote that Kang’s story

    attracts and holds the attention as if it were a novel. . . . But of course,East Goes Westis not a mere novel. It is the candid record of “the making of an Oriental Yankee” as its subtitle states, and its author has been so successfully Americanized as to become...

  7. 3 Utopias Lost and Found: Lost Horizon and the Revitalization of American Masculinity
    (pp. 97-138)

    In one of the most dramatic moments in Frank Capra’s 1937 filmLost Horizon,two survivors of a plane crash, their aircraft buried in snow and their pilot dead, pore over a map, trying to situate themselves. As I point out later in my study, this moment begins the characters’ vacillating assessments of the land to which they have come. They have landed presumably in an area that exists elusively in an unexplored part of Tibet or China, but where this place is actually located is unclear: is it East, West, Asia, or beyond Asia? Soon enough, the survivors are...

  8. 4 Envisioning Feminism across the Pacific: Japanese and American Feminism and the Limits of Race in Facing Two Ways
    (pp. 139-184)

    Transpacific co-encounters between Japanese and US feminists, specifically through the collaboration and alliance between two birth control activists, Baroness Shidzué Ishimoto and Margaret Sanger, are examined in this chapter. As I suggested in the introduction and in chapter 1, there are relatively few works that discuss the real and imagined relationships between Asian and white women during this period, and even fewer looking at comparative feminisms at this time. While I do not propose that the example of Ishimoto and Sanger constitutes “the” model of comparative feminisms during this period or that it predicts future models, this early transpacific feminist...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-194)

    In this book I have reflected on the ways key issues regarding the constitution of the American social, sexual, and gendered subject in the early twentieth century were articulated by way of cultural and social discourses that presented fascinating, and often fantastic, visions of contact between Asia and America. The texts I have examined disclose both the fluidity and instability of notions of race, gender, and sexuality and also how these notions and the way they helped constitute modern American social life were directly and indirectly produced through a series of imagined moments of an Asian and American encounter both...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 195-218)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-226)
  12. Index
    (pp. 227-237)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-241)