Professor of English and Director of Asian American Studies
Asian American and diasporic literature, film, and cultural studies; Women’s writing and autobiography; 20th and 21st century American literature; Victorian literature, especially the English novel; literature of transracial adoption; children’s and young adult literature; fantasy and speculative fiction; postcolonial theory; autobiography theory; psychoanalytic/affect theory.
My current research project is informed by my own family’s history of migration, loss, and assimilation, and questions about the work of understanding the past. For complex reasons, my parents left their homelands and families of origin in the 1940s and never returned. They said little about their families, but China loomed large in our family, where my father constantly read and wrote about Chinese history and politics. My work is energized by the questions raised by this background.
In Where I Have Never Been: Asian American Narratives of Return, I write about the shadows of Asian diasporic homelands in the lives of Asian Americans as they return to Asia, whether to serve the country of their birth or to seek out the roots of their family’s dis-ease in America, or to gain first-hand impressions to counter the limited views of Asia found in the U.S. The book heralds a significant theme of Asian American literature, the theme of "return" in which Asian diasporic emigrants and their descendants travel to their Asian homelands to reclaim their Asian ethnic heritage. The book reconceptualizes Asian American literature as a transpacific literature created by flexible citizens with transpacific roots; it examines how these narratives record, reflect upon, and resist the phenomena of racial melancholia and postcolonial melancholia in the Chinese and Japanese diasporic contexts; and it demonstrates how these texts create "countermemories" contesting official discourses' erasure of minority acts and cultures.
The book draws upon over 100 examples of primary texts by authors of East Asian, Southeast Asian, and South Asian ethnicities, spanning events from 1828 to 2011, and publications from 1909 through 2016. The book closely considers early narratives of Chinese-U.S. educational exchange; family memoirs of merchant, working class, and scholarly Chinese families; and contemporary Japanese North American representations of Japan, 1919-1945.
My earlier work addresses the themes of creating new stories to counter public or family expectations; of travel and migration in the world of globalization; of uncovering stories at risk of loss and erasure; and of bridging worlds, in articles on Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Frank Chin; on novels of Korean “comfort women,” Korean adoptees, mourning, and racial melancholia; and on Michael Ondaatje's and Shyam Selvadurai’s novels of domestic and political unrest in Sri Lanka. Working with published and unpublished personal and fictional narratives, psychoanalytic and postcolonial theory, and the evolving body of Asian American cultural studies, I seek to balance interest in questions of genre and of authorial voice and choice with a sense of the larger world that determines how texts are written and read.
More recently, I have sought to broaden the scope of Asian American literature by discussing the speculative fiction of Ken Liu, narratives of return from 1965-1995, and portrayals of Chinatown by H. T. Tsiang, Jade Snow Wong, C. Y. Lee, and David Henry Hwang.
In My Grandmothers’ Houses, my current project, I consider the legacies of my two grandfathers, a lieutenant general and a famous educator, who studied in the US, served in China, and returned to the US in their old age; my grandmothers, who lived and collectively raised 13 children in China; and my journeys to discover and understand the fates of my grandmothers, aunts, and uncles.
My work has been supported by a Columbian College Facilitating Grant and by a Robert H. Smith Research Fellowship.
Love and Longing in Asian North American Literature and Film (co-taught with Prof. Kavita Daiya)
Writing Race and Nation
Introduction to Asian American Studies through Literature: Gender, Race, the Gaze, and Countermemory
Introduction to Asian American Cultural Studies
Asian American Literature
Asian American-U.S. Latina/o Encounters (co-taught with Prof. Tony Lopez)
Ethnicity and Place
Inward Journeys: Women’s Autobiography
Contemporary American Literature, 1945-1995
Introduction to English Literature, 1800-present
Introduction to American Literature, 1865-present
Dean’s Seminars: Asian American Literature; Coming of Age in Fantasy
Fantasy and Speculative Fiction
Imagining the Self and the World: Children's Literature
Freshman seminars: Fantastic Literature: Seeing through Film: Asian American Literature
Where I Have Never Been: Migration, Melancholia and Memory in Asian American Narratives of Return. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2019.
Assimilating Asians: Gendered Strategies of Authorship in Asian America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.
Book Chapters, Articles, Essays, and Interviews
“History, Memory, and Return: Locating Chinese American Literature: An Interview with Professor Patricia Chu.” Lian-gui Chen, ed. Patricia P. Chu, trans. into Mandarin, Lian-gui Chen. Hua Wen Wen Xue (Literature in Chinese) No. 2 (April 2021). Hua Wen Wen Xue is a leading journal of Chinese literary studies in the PRC. Forthcoming.
“Rethinking Nationalist Attachments through Narratives of Return, 1965-1995.” Asian American Literature in Transition, 1965-1996, Vol. 3. Ed. Cathy Schlund-Vials and Asha Nadkarni. Cambridge University Press, 2020. Forthcoming, May 2021.
“‘A Being from a Different World’: Yung Wing and the Making of a Global Subjectivity. Eastern and Western Synergies and Imaginations: Texts and Histories. Ed. Katrine Wong. East and West: Culture, Diplomacy and Interactions: Volume 8. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020. 16-155.
“A Response to the Literary Address of Min Hyoung Song.” “’When We Look, We See Each Other’: Thoughts on Asian American Literature in the Twenty-first Century.” Asian American Literature: The State of the Art. Ed. Mai-linh K. Hong. The Massachusetts Review online: 23 August, 2020.
“Truth as Accessible as Looking Out a Window: Unit 731 and the Ethics of Virtual Postwar Testimony," Massachusetts Review: A Quarterly of Arts and Public Affairs, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Winter 2019): 682-696.
“Ten Questions for Patricia P. Chu." Interview by Edward Clifford. The Massachusetts Review online. 20 March 2020.
"Asian Diasporic Narratives of Return." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. Oxford University Press, a peer-reviewed online alternative to Wikipedia. Published September 2019.
"Coming Home: Asian American Root Journey Narratives." North Philly Notes, Temple University Press blog. Posted March 13, 2019.
"Chinatown Life as Contested Terrain: H. T. Tsiang, Jade Snow Wong, and C. Y. Lee. The Cambridge History of Asian American Literature." Eds. Rajini Srikanth and Min Hyoung Song. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge UP, 2016: 155-170.
"Jade Snow Wong." Chinese Americans: The History and Culture of a People. Ed. Jonathan H. X. Lee. Cremona, CA: ABC-CLIO Greenwood Publishing Group, 2015: 422-425.
“Bildung and the Asian American Bildungsroman.” The Routledge Companion to Asian American and Pacific Islander Literature. Ed. Rachel C. Lee. New York and Oxford, England: Routledge-Taylor and Francis, 2014: 403-404
“Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Deann Borshay Liem, and the Adoptees’ ‘Search for Origins’ Narrative.”Journal of Korean Adoption Studies. 1.3 (2012): 27-46.
“Asian American Narratives of Return: Nisei Representations of Prewar and Wartime Japan.”Ethnic Life Writing and Histories: Genres, Performance, and Culture. Ed. Rocio G. Davis, Jaume Aurell, and Ana Beatriz Delgado. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2007: 204-221.
“A Flame Against a Sleeping Lake of Petrol’: Sympathy and the Expatriate Witness in Selvadurai’s Funny Boy and Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost.” Literary Gestures: The Aesthetic in Asian American Literary Discourse. Ed. Rocio Davis and Sue-im Lee. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2006. 86-103.
“’To Hide Her True Self’: Sentimentality and the Search for an Intersubjective Self in Nora Okja Keller’s Comfort Woman.” Asian North American identities Beyond the Hyphen. Ed. Eleanor Ty and Donald Goellnicht. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. 61-83.
“Maxine Hong Kingston: The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts.” The MLA Resource Guide to Asian American Literature. Ed. Stephen H. Sumida and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong. New York: Modern Language Association, 2001. 86-96.
“Frank Chin, Tripmaster Monkey, and the Chinese Heroic Tradition.” Arizona Quarterly 53:3 (Autumn 1997): 117-139.
“’The Invisible World the Emigrants Built’: Cultural Self-Inscription and the Anti-Romantic Plots of the The Woman Warrior.” Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies 2 (1992): 95-115.
Ph.D. in English literature, Cornell University, 1993
M.A. in English literature, Cornell University, 1989
B.A., English literature, Yale University, 1981, magna cum laude with distinction in English