Forty-five years ago, Aiiieeeee! screamed its way into the literary scene with an ambitious goal. The anthology's editors—Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada, and Shawn Wong—wanted to establish the Asian American literary canon. This canon would amplify the silenced voices of Asian American writers (initially defined only as Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans born in the United States) and reclaim cultural space taken up by yellowface Charlie Chan–type shit as well as assimilationist works from more popular Asian American writers. However, the editors' extremely narrow definition of "Asian American" drew criticism, as did the introduction's general machismo, the gender imbalance of the included authors, and its sharp attacks on successful women writers. University of Oregon professor Tara Fickle wrestles with this complicated legacy in the new foreword for the third edition of the anthology, published earlier this year by University of Washington Press. Over the phone, Fickle said it "feels weird" to work on this material "as a woman, and as a mixed-race Asian American scholar whose name doesn't signify," but she thinks its important for Asian Americanists to "deal with what it sees as an embarrassing uncle in the room."
by Rich Smith
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