UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

“Would you rather live a great novel or write one” : writing Asian Canadian women’s (hi)stories Cheng, Sijia


Drawing on recent queer scholars’ notion of queer temporalities and queer time as opposed to the heteronormative history and a seamless progress of linear time, this thesis looks at the emergence of Asian Canadian literary movement and examines the proliferation of non-linear temporality and non-normative sexuality in Asian Canadian women’s writing. Whereas the theme of discovering the matrilineal history has been constantly explored in Asian North American literature, this thesis suggests that their story-telling practices do not rely so much on the genealogical transmission. Rather, I bring my approach to grief, loss, displacement and history in line with queerness to read Asian Canadian women’s novels and explore the turn to the non-linear temporality and non-normative sexuality that is directly related to each novel’s representation of Asian women as they retell the family history. The two novels I choose to analyze, Hiromi Goto’s Japanese Canadian story Chorus of Mushrooms and SKY Lee’s Chinese Canadian family saga Disappearing Moon Cafe, are considered as founding texts of the Asian Canadian literary movement in the 1980s and 1990s. Both writers foreground the characters’ formation of non-normative sexual identity alongside the unearth of the family’s past to reconstruct the personal, family and collective histories. I examine the non-linear temporality as a strategy in their stories for women characters as racialized and gendered minority to reject and critique the official account of history of nation-building. Through the culminating story-telling practices, female characters appear to exist outside the normative time of the worlds they occupy, and in doing so they offer the reconstruction of subjectivity and relationality with queer utopic visions beyond the white heteronormative framework. Therefore, queerness only marks the turn to non-conforming, non-normative sexualities but also offers a new mode of relationality that puts emphasis on women’s communities, rejecting a singular or reductive expectation of Asian Canadian women’s identity. Queerness, this thesis suggests, provides fertile terrain for tracing the spatiotemporal disjunction that the Asian Canadians have suffered, so as to reimagine identity, history and futurity.

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