It’s been a busy few weeks so I haven’t had the chance to post about the fact that my book, Novel Subjects Authorship as Radical Self-Care in Multiethnic American Narratives, is officially a real thing out in the world!
In my defense, part of why I’ve been so busy has been because I was preparing a presentation on the book, which I gave as part of the 2021 Circle for Asian American Literary Studies (CAALS) Virtual Conference.
My presentation was part of a larger book conversation panel with Dr. Swati Rana, whose book is entitled Race Characters Ethnic Literature and the Figure of the American Dream (2020, UNC Press). Even though she covers the 20th century from 1960 and before while my book talks about a bunch of books published more than a couple of decades later, it turned out that there were numerous overlaps in our concerns and questions. Our conversation was moderated by the great Dr. Betsy Huang.
For my part, I outlined two of the basic questions underpinning Novel Subjects, namely:
- How does contemporary literature contend with the power and responsibility of authorship, particularly in narratives of marginalized groups?
- How has multiethnic literature challenged the notion that writing and authorship are neutral or universal?
I provided an example from Ruth Ozeki’s 2013 novel, A Tale for the Time Being. Ozeki’s novel depicts two author-protagonists—one named and modeled after Ozeki herself, who happens upon a journal written by a second author, the fictive teenaged writer named Nao. Especially because they are separated by time and space, we might assume that this reader-writer relationship goes in only one direction.
However, in Ozeki’s novel, it’s circular—both writers have the power to influence the other in very personal and intimate ways that also shape their self-assessments and perspectives. In fact, at one point, (spoiler alert!) the character Ruth actually crosses into the fictional storyworld of Nao and Nao’s grandmother, deliberately altering the trajectory of the plot itself.
In this way, my book focuses on author-characters who Sara Ahmed might call willful and intrusive—they both intrude upon and interrupt the metafictional tales that they tell, while at the same time willfully insisting upon telling these tales in the first place, often through a reliance on unconventional, unaccepted, or even seemingly inauthentic methods and approaches.
If you want to know what texts I discuss in Novel Subjects, you can find a Bookshop list here.