Be/Longing for Belonging: Asian Americans’ Dilemma of American-ness in Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (1989)

Zeineb Derbali

Abstract


Belonging is intrinsically related to the concept of identity which has yet to be created and recreated times and again, especially by contemporary writers who find themselves located within multi-cultural and multi-racial societies. Within the context of the United States of America reputed for its ethnic strata, constructing one’s identity becomes a pressing need taking into consideration the ever-lingering opposition between the hegemonic mainstream and the marginalized minorities. Maxine Hong Kingston, a Chinese-American woman writer exposes the Chinese-American quandary of belonging to America in her novel Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book (1989) wherein she considers constructing identity as an ongoing process whose objective is to situate oneself with regard to an Other. Kingston reiterates the idea of a need to define oneself vis-à-vis the Other. In this process, marginalized individuals as well as diasporized ethnic minorities write themselves back into the mainstream history and discourse from which they are excluded or absented. They do this through  asserting their belonging to a certain ethnic, racial and cultural space. Wittman Ah Sing, Kingston’s protagonist, is situated into a bicultural environment where he keeps struggling to make disparate cultures have a peaceful encounter; therefore, he creates a third hybrid space to which he proudly admits belonging.

This paper seeks to gloss over Chinese-Americans’ struggle to belong to the American nation through investigating the life of Wittman Ah Sing and depicting his quest of identity, which is anchored on the notion of belonging. The paper is divided into three sections: the first one deals with the intrinsic relationship between belonging and identity. The second section aims to contextualize belonging with reference to the notion of ‘place’ and that of ‘space.’ The last section is devoted to Kingston’s Tripmaster Monkey (1989) which serves to illustrate the previous ideas of belonging, identity construction and the pertinence of place and space to the quest and articulation of identity.


Keywords


American-ness, belonging, Asian Americans.

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