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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“Call Me an Innocent Criminal”: Dual Discourse, Gender, and “Chinese” America in Nie Hualing’s Sangqing yu Taohong/Mulberry and Peach

  • Author(s): Fusco, Serena
  • et al.

This essay discusses Nie Hualing’s novel Sangqing yu Taohong (Mulberry and Peach: Two Women of China) as a literary text that intensely engages Chinese identity and Chineseness as a global, transnational cultural phenomenon, while at the same time narrating a story of migration to the US that spurs the emergence (within the text) of some of the most localized, politically charged concerns of Asian American cultural discourse. While the publication of Nie’s novel coincides with the initial articulations of Asian American identity in the context of political activism, Sangqing yu Taohong/Mulberry and Peach also anticipates the growing interest for contextualizing the Asian American experience as a transnational phenomenon. In its representation of Chinese migration to America and female sexuality as issues that stretch ethical and political boundaries and blur the distinction between private and public discourses, this novel constructs identity as both politicized and uncontainable, anticipating, again, some key components of Asian American cultural discourse since the 1990s. This excess of signification reproduces the tension between “model minorities” and “bad subjects” that makes Asian American discourse inescapably political. This political nature, in turn, intertwines public and private frameworks of reference, as well as ethnic, national, and transnational dimensions of signification.

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