Denise Cruz's Article on Chang-rae Lee’s My Year Abroad Featured in Public Books
June 09, 2021
THE ASIAN AMERICAN NOVEL IN OUR TIME OF HATE
Chang-rae Lee’s My Year Abroad offers a darkly comedic reckoning with the violence and intimacy of Asian and American relations.1 What does it mean to write—and read—an American novel amid anti-Asian racism and hate crimes, events that are connected to a history of Asian exclusion? How might we make sense of this pattern alongside the “Asian century,” a term that indexes the supposed rise of Asia’s economic, political, and cultural influence across the globe?
Across six different novels, Chang-rae Lee has defied the boundaries of American literature, asking his readers to question deep-seated assumptions about race, migration, and transnational and global relations. In My Year Abroad—a hybrid, shapeshifting, satirical, and moving book—Lee upends a long history of the West producing and consuming the culture, people, flavors, sights, and sounds of Asia as an object of desire and fantasy. To do so, he builds on his talent for experimenting with narrative voice and novelistic form.