After the first week of the study of Asian American literature, I finished reading Frank Chin’s “The Chickencoop Chinaman” and embarked on reading John Okada’s “No-No Boy”. Although the two are centered on the quagmire of Asian Americans under the rampant racism of the Western world and the exploration of one’s true identity, the narratives of the two works are vastly different. In “The Chickencoop Chinaman”, Frank Chin makes use DIRECT references and bold languages to genuinely reflect the lives of Asian Americans in the Western society. Tam’s direct expression of the Chinese American identity, that Chinaman is a “natural born ragmouth speaking the motherless tongue…result of a pile of pork chop suey thrown up into the chickencoop in the dead of the night…”, depicts the passivity and dehumanization of the Chinese American race. It’s appalling to see how Tam characterizes himself in the onset of the play, and as the play goes on, I only begin to learn more about the dehumanization of Asian Americans from Tam and Kenji’s interactions with Charley Popcorn. The strong language and vivd imageries throughout the play unquestionably express Frank Chin’s distasteful sentiment towards racial discrimination.
Different from “The Chickcoop Chinaman”, John Okada’s “No-No Boy” is more conducive to understanding and addresses the crisis of racial and cultural identity more directly. Ichiro’s returning to Seattle is filled with bitterness: his encounter with his friend Eto fully demonstrates the stigma against disloyalty towards America and Ichiro’s passivity; his hatred for his mother and apathy towards his father SHOW a sense of denial of his Japanese identity. Ichiro’s mother’s insistence that Japan had won the war indicates recalcitrant remains of Orientalism, but Ochiro’s hatred towards his mother reflects Ichiro’s confusion about his true identity. “I am not your son and I am not American and I am not American.” Ichiro’s statement directly relates to a failure of assimilation, which is partly due to the cultural paralysis created by his family. In other words, Ichiro’s relationship with his family demonstrates the cultural gap between the two generations. As the novel goes on, it will be interesting to see further reflections by Ichiro as he attempts to define his identity.