John Yau and the Politics of Ethnic Identification and Self-Identification
This chapter begins with analysis of the critical controversy that erupted when poet John Yau criticized Eliot Weinberger’s anthology, American Poetry Since 1950: Innovators and Outsiders for its paucity of poets of color (only Langston Hughes and Amiri Baraka were represented in the book). Weinberger charged Yau with only playing the ’race card’ when it was expedient and profitable. Contra Weinberger, this chapter shows that, far from shying away from the topic of race and identity, Yau has dealt with these concerns throughout his career in more oblique, often nonthematic, means. Because critics such as Weinberger tend to look only for thematic manifestations of ’Asianness,’ they have missed Yau’s more subtle, non-content-based grappling with issues of racial identity, including racial self-hatred, and his critiques of racist representations and discourses.
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