Asian American drama

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

In Diana Son's Satellites, a young couple, Nina and Miles, move with their infant daughter Hannah into a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Fraught with new-parent anxiety, they respond with both positive and negative emotions to their new surroundings as well as to one another. Nina, who is second-generation Korean American, hires Mrs. Chae, a Korean immigrant, in hopes of fostering in Hannah those linguistic and cultural ties that she fears losing, Miles, an African American man adopted by a white family, suspects Reggie, one of the neighborhood old-timers, of being a thief and con man. Neither relationship turns out as predicted. Nina concludes that Mrs. Chae is racist and wants to fire her, Miles surreptitiously videotapes Reggie, only to find that he is honest. As anger, suspicion, and exhaustion bring the characters to a final confrontation, Nina smashes the window of the brownstone, letting in the sounds of the urban landscape outside. After this outburst, Satellites ends with the hopeful tableau of Nina, Miles, and the baby Hannah looking out onto the street. Visibility and Presence Asian American drama has both its tragic and comic sides. The former is the sometimes violent, sometimes humorous demolition of different aspects of American life. Whether deconstructing the legacy of longstanding “oriental” stereotypes such as the submissive butterfly or the yellow peril, or examining the darker side of the economic privilege afforded to the “model minority,” these plays necessarily stage forms of destruction. Son's play, for instance, marks a recognition of how racial affinities and dynamics must give way to change: Upward mobility, intermarriage, and multiracial families. What Satellites shows in its more painful but also tender and hopeful moments is how human ties – whether marital, familial, ethnic, or professional – are constantly tested and eroded. Such demolition might be construed as a comic action in which new forms of affiliation and self spring from the wreckage of institutions and ideologies. Asian American drama has always been tied up with larger questions of visibility and representation. In both the past and the present, Asian Americans have too often been either erased from view or flattened into stereotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Asian American Literature
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages89-100
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316155011
ISBN (Print)9781107095175
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

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Lee, J. (2015). Asian American drama. In The Cambridge Companion to Asian American Literature (pp. 89-100). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316155011.009