American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices

The dragon, a symbol of Asian art and mythology, appears in many guises and is always adaptable — a survivor par excellence. Asian Americans display this same supple strength as they move between their Asian culture and their American one.

In American Dragons, Laurence Yep brings together twenty-five talented writers, each with a different story about the Asian American experience:

- A Chinese American girl struggles to find her place in a suburban high school without denying her true intelligence.

- A young woman is torn when her romantic feelings clash with the expectations of her Vietnamese parents.

- A twenty-first-century teenager and his aging grandfather learn that it is possible to live in the future without losing touch with the past.

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About Dragon Mystic

I fell in love with dragons when I read Tea With the Black Dragon, and never looked back. Not the clunky winged Medieval dragons that ate cows, the graceful Asian dragons that could fly without wings. Later I discovered the elegant Welsh dragons, red and white, as described by R.J. Stewart in his books on the historical Merlin.
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2 Responses to American Dragons: Twenty-five Asian American Voices

  1. Gale Finlayson "PLUME45" says:

    Advice from someone who knows what she’s talking about! Considering that there is such an enormous godless vacuum for Asian-American voices in ANY medium, and that most novels about ‘Asians’ are written by non-Asians, just being published earns ‘American Dragons’ three stars. Notice I gave it _only_ three stars? When I first saw this book at the Berekeley public library I snatched it up quick thinking “Wow! A book of all Asian-Americans writing about being Asian-American? This is sooo cool!” And was quickly disappointed. The writing was sub-par and a lot of the stories revealed internalized anti-Asian sentiments and stereotypes. IF THESE AUTHORS WERE NOT ASIAN-AMERICAN THEIR STORIES WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED. That is not to say that the writing is ‘terrible’. As a collection, I think it is WONDERFUL that such a wide array of Asian-American viewpoints and experiences have the opportunity to be shared with such a wide audience. I encourage all Asian-Americans to speak of their experiences and in that respect, this book is a worthwhile endeavor. Also, the problems I have with ‘American Dragons’ are the same problems I have with many other Asian-American writings which share the same shortcomings (namely political correctness, low writing quality, extremely soft and non-informed stances on society and race, exotification of self, internalized racism, and a somewhat cliche title for starters). HOWEVER– As far as being a political statement this is not something that I’d label a ‘boat rocker’. Politically speaking, I would rate the authors/pieces as a 3 overall. On a political scale of 1-10, 1 being ‘I shop at the Gap. I like MTV. If I pretend like I don’t see, maybe my problems will go away.’ and 10 being ‘Arrgh! I am an enraged revolutionary! Down with the hegemony!’ Considering the book is edited by Laurence Yep (I really enjoy his writing) and is something of a watershed for Asian-American youth literature, it is a let-down. The best adjective to describe ‘American Dragons’ as a whole is ‘lukewarm’ (leaning towards cold). Another description is ‘bland’. A third is ‘extra mild, hold the revolution’ This book was obviously meant to be an inocuous bookshelf companion for teens. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But considering there are so few outlets and resources for Asian-American youth I would have hoped for something that packed more punch. My biggest gripe with this compilation is that it attempts to ‘speak of the ‘Asian-American’ experience’ so to speak. But the field of writers it draws upon is too narrow and it holds back, ultimately failing in its purpose. As far as I recall, there are no accounts or viewpoints of ‘urban life’, teen violence, homosexuality, feminism, poverty, hate crimes, ‘liberal’ Asian parents (as opposed to the cliche traditional ones), non-conformists, or other realms that are very relevant to, but not often addressed by Asian-Americans. Racism, assimilation, identity-searching, and the ensuing _rage_ and confusion that many Asian-American teens feel but may be unable to verablize are not discussed at all in an emotionally honest, forthright dialogue. There are innuendos and undercurrents but nothing you can sink your teeth into. And in my humble opinion, very little that speaks of how Asian-American teens today must live and interact in a mulit-ethnic society and with mainstream popular culture. Most of the pieces dealt with connecting with the author’s ‘Asian’ heritage. Which is refreshing. It is impressive that the authors come from a wide variety of ethnic and national backgrounds. The stories, likewise, encompass a wide variety of locales and moods. It was worthwhile reading about different Asian-American perspectives. I actually enjoyed a few of the stories, and to be fair the writing quality and styles varied greatly. One of the stories, about a Vietnamese-American boy and his night actually struck a chord with me (even though I’m not Vietnamese) The writing level overall is acceptable considering it is aimed at a relatively young audience. Although I am not thrilled with ‘American Dragons’, I *am* thrilled that a compilation such as this was even attempted and I PRAY that many more will follow and improve. Hooray for the authors, publishers, and supporters of this book. Even though I find much to criticize, it is because I expect so much from Asian-American ‘voices’. Many of the shortcomings I see could have been improved upon by the addition of different authors. I would recommend this book to Asian-American youth. For anyone else, I would not discourage you from buying ‘American Dragons’.

  2. Anonymous says:

    WEAVING A TAPESTRY OF THE AMERICAN HOPESCAPE This anthology features 25 Asian-American voices (writers of short stories, poetry and drama) which editor Lawrence Yep has carefully chosen as representative of the Asian American experience. The authors reflect a variety of backgrounds: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai, yet they share basic commonalities of the immigrant experience. Yep’s introduction explains why he refers to these Voices as Dragons; he also includes brief explanatory paragraphs among various sections of the book. Primarily it offers points of view from teenagers or young people who are struggling to define their roles in this new world of America, while retaining their cultural heritage. Most of the protagonists are torn between the desire for acceptance in the broad spectrum of American pop culture, while trying not to betray the dreams and memories of their odler generations. The cover on the paperback edition wordlessly portrays the Chinese rice bowl (symbolic of food) and the Japanese art of orgami (creativity), both depicted against a stark landscape. These “American Dragons” have caused it to bloom with fertility and beauty–thus deserving our literary respect;in fact, their experiences reflect and validate those of most immigrants to our seemingly affluent shores.

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