Cultural Assimilation and the Politics of Beauty in Postwar American Fiction by Ethnic Women Writers

Ghosal, Nilanjana and Chatterjee, Srirupa (2017) Cultural Assimilation and the Politics of Beauty in Postwar American Fiction by Ethnic Women Writers. In: The English Paradigm in India. Springer Singapore, pp. 139-151. ISBN 978-981-10-5331-3

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This essay critiques the repression and violence engendered by the dominant ideologies governing the construction of beauty and femininity in contemporary America. By foregrounding the politics of body image it argues that while the imperative to assimilate into the cultural mainstream is a palpable reality for ethnic groups in America; this dictum becomes particularly coercive for ethnic women who must not only conform outwardly to the sociocultural codes but also alter their appearance significantly in order to be accommodated by dominant white discourses on beauty and femininity. Accordingly, it examines how the myth of feminine beauty acts as a diabolic force and drives women toward an obsessive quest for perfect physicality. Furthermore, it reads the hegemonic beauty ideology as a contemporary Gothic trope that perpetrates tremendous psychological and physical violence on subjects entrapped within the discourse of an ideal body image. The essay, therefore, briefly discusses fictional works by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Mexican women writers from America who have critiqued the transformations of ethnic women into pathetic victims for having submitted to the dictates of the beauty myth. It then offers a close reading of Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s novel Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers (1996), a coming-of-age narrative of Lovey Nariyoshi, a Japanese American teenager, residing in Hawaii in the 1970s. Yamanaka’s novel demonstrates how Japanese American women struggle with the pressures and violence of assimilation and are forced to transform their physicality to forge an identity that is both conventional and normative and in their attempts suffer horrific psychic and physical violence.

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IITH Creators:
IITH CreatorsORCiD
Chatterjee, Srirupa
Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Assimilation; Beauty; Femininity; Violence; Ethnic American women’s literature; Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Subjects: Literature > American literature in English
Divisions: Department of Liberal Arts
Depositing User: Team Library
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2017 04:28
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2017 04:28
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