Invisibility in African American and Asian American Literature

A Comparative Study


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About the Book

The book is a comparative study of the invisibility trope in African American and Asian American literature. It distinguishes between various kinds of invisibility and offers a genealogy of the term while providing a theoretical dissection of the invisibility trope itself. Investigating the various ways of striving for visibility, the author places special emphasis on the need for cooperation among various racial groups.
While the book explores invisibility in a variety of African American and Asian American literary texts, the main focus is on four novels: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door, Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey and Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker. The book not only sheds light on the oppressed but also exposes the structures of oppression and the apparatus of power, which often renders itself invisible. Throughout the study the author emphasizes that power is multi-directional, never flowing only in one direction. The book brings to light mechanisms of oppression within the dominant society as well as within and between marginalized racial groups.

About the Author(s)

Klara Szmańko is an academic lecturer specializing in American ethnic literature, in particular Asian American and African American literature.

Bibliographic Details

Klara Szmańko
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3952-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Preface      1
Introduction      3

ONE. Different Faces of Invisibility: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man      25
Invisible Both to Whites and Blacks      28
Invisibility—a Double-Edged Sword      34
Invisibility, Tricksterism and Performativity of Human Identities      43

TWO. Through Invisibility Towards Visibility: Sam Greenlee’s The Spook Who Sat by the Door      55
Invisible Freedom Fighters and Black Nationalism of the 1960s      56
Invisibility of the Black Ghetto      69
Dan Freeman’s Literal Invisibility and Mimicry as a Linchpin of Literal Invisibility      79

Performing Towards Visibility: Maxine Hong Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey      90
Asian American Invisibility versus
African American Invisibility      92
Staging Chinese American Identity/Invisibility      104
The Pitfalls of Recentering      111

FOUR. Multicultural Invisibilities: Chang-rae Lee’s Native Speaker      123
“Uneasy Coalition of Our Colors” and the Black-Korean American Conflict      127
Beyond Conventional Identity Politics Towards a Politics of Translation      141
Mimicking for the Mainstream      152

Conclusion      157
Chapter Notes      173
Bibliography      195
Index      213

Book Reviews & Awards

“Thoroughly researched but easily accessed, Szmanko’s text provides a provocative and unflinching examination of the current state of race relations within and between these two communities and the white world in which they live”—Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas.