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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Becoming-Animal in Asian Americas: Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s God of Luck and a Watanabean Triptych (Three Poems by José Watanabe)

  • Author(s): Kim, Michelle Har
  • et al.

Considering the implicit North American and Anglophone core of Asian American literature traditionally conceived, this essay discusses two examples of literatures of the Asian Americas. A narrative of a Chinese coolie’s heroic escape from a Peruvian guano mine, Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel God of Luck (2008) introduces a lesser-known point of view to the field: the nineteenth-century Chinese coolie in Peru. Rather than embrace the emblematic hero who accedes to voice, this essay attempts to read outside of an anticipated rubric of individual politico-economic repletion. In the poetry of Peruvian writer José Watanabe (1946–2007), motifs of animal encounter abound—yet dogs, fish, and other kinds of life are never deployed as a discrete metaphor through which we can see and know ourselves. As readers we are shifted to the edge of the world, in a “becoming-animal” that explores not the Asian American, but its restless morphing, illegibly human or otherwise.

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