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Virtual: ‘New Books in Asian American Studies: A Conversation between Heidi Kim and Nitasha Sharma’ - UNC Global

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Virtual: ‘New Books in Asian American Studies: A Conversation between Heidi Kim and Nitasha Sharma’

May 27, 2021 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Join the Asian American Center’s director Heidi Kim and fellow Nitasha Sharma for a conversation about their new books on May 27 at 8:00 p.m. Register here for this session. 

Heidi Kim’s Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities: The Cold War of Chinese American Narrative

In the Cold War era, Chinese Americans were caught in a double-bind. The widespread stigma of illegal immigration, as it was often called, was most easily countered with the model minority, assimilating and forming nuclear families, but that in turn led to further stereotypes. In Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities, Heidi Kim investigates how Chinese American writers navigated a strategy to normalize and justify the Chinese presence during a time when fears of Communism ran high.

Kim explores how writers like Maxine Hong Kingston, Jade Snow Wong, and C. Y. Lee, among others, addressed issues of history, family, blood purity, and law through then-groundbreaking novels and memoirs. Illegal Immigrants/Model Minorities also uses legal cases, immigration documents, and law as well as mass media coverage to illustrate how writers constructed stories in relation to the political structures that allowed or disallowed their presence, their citizenship, and their blended identity.

Kim illuminates the rapidly shifting political and social pressures on Chinese American authors who selectively concealed, revealed, and reconstructed issues of citizenship, belonging, and inclusion in their writing.

Nitasha Sharma’s Hawai′i Is My Haven: Race and Indigeneity in the Black Pacific

Hawaiʻi Is My Haven maps the context and contours of Black life in the Hawaiian Islands. This ethnography emerges from a decade of fieldwork with both Hawaiʻi-raised Black locals and Black transplants who moved to the Islands from North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. Nitasha Tamar Sharma highlights the paradox of Hawaiʻi as a multiracial paradise and site of unacknowledged anti-Black racism. While Black culture is ubiquitous here, African-descended people seem invisible. In this formerly sovereign nation structured neither by the US Black/White binary nor the one drop rule, nonWhite multiracials, including Black Hawaiians and Black Koreans, illustrate the coarticulation and limits of race and the native/settler divide. Despite erasure and racism, nonmilitary Black residents consider Hawaiʻi their haven, describing it as a place to “breathe” that offers the possibility of becoming local. Sharma’s analysis of race, indigeneity, and Asian settler colonialism shifts North American debates in Black and Native studies to the Black Pacific. Hawaiʻi Is My Haven illustrates what the Pacific offers members of the African diaspora and how they in turn illuminate race and racism in “paradise.”