Asian American Autobiographies, Teaching Genre Expectations, and Single-Author Folk Narratives in Ed Young’s Lon Po Po and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior Marina Tinone, Yale University ‘20 This paper argues for a continuous, developmental approach to the reading, teaching, and reception of Asian American literature across ages and intended audience by comparing the critical analysis and reception of Ed Young’s picture book Lon Po Po to those of Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior. In placing The Woman Warrior in a children’s literature framework and Lon Po Po in a non-children’s literature framework, an unconventional juxtaposition of perspectives can be created. Lon Po Po can be ireinterpreted within the genre of [adult] Asian American autobiography, and The Woman Warrior can be valued for its imaginative retellings of cultural stories, an aspect important to diverse children’s literature. These two cross-developmental interpretations of the respective works defy, perhaps unsuccessfully, the receptive paradox of single-author folklore. it is this paradox that symies the overall reception and representation of Asian Americans for the greater non-minority public.
Introduction Before discussing or analyzing literature, we read, and before reading, we are taught to read. Someone reads to us, and this person (and the many other people who read to us) show us not only how to read, but how to anticipate, make predictions, and extrapolate from the text a new sense of the world. Teaching and teaching methods are therefore the first discussions and analyses of texts. These early analyses, as presented by the authority of a teacher and in this paper, the classroom (as a site of teaching and primary interpretation), shape the understanding of a text and develop readers’ literature-to-life expectations. From literature, readers learn lessons about themselves and their world that transfer into their life, and perhaps for life. The reception and criticism of texts, then, can serve as a gauge for the lessons that readers have already learned and readers’ learned expectations for particular kinds of texts. This approach is especially important in understanding multicultural literature as these texts act as windows and mirrors for readers to understand their identity and the identities of others (Sims Bishop ix). To track this developmental approach to genre expectations and life lessons in Asian American literature, I compare Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior and Ed Young’s picture book Lon Po Po. The Woman Warrior, enduringly taught and regarded as Asian American literature, features Kingston’s retellings of Chinese folklore which critics scrutinize for their cultural inauthenticity and disservice to Chinese American representation. Lon Po Po, a children’s picture book subtitled “A Red-Riding Hood Story From China”, prepares younger readers to view American and Chinese cultures against each other, and I interpret a set of Lon Po Po lesson plans to explore the pedagogical burden placed on Lon Po Po in teaching nonChinese American audiences about China and Chinese-ness. The publication and teaching of these texts, in relating 28 | UNFOUND