Cultural authenticity, the family, and East Asian American romance novels

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Although romance novels are overwhelmingly white where romantic protagonists and their communities are concerned (even if these societies are culturally diverse in reality), romance writers and readers of different ethnicities have challenged this white norm. Black American romance is a flourishing subgenre, albeit with its own problems of market limitations, and Hispanic romance publishing is a growing phenomenon. However, romance novels with East Asian protagonists are few and far between. This essay outlines briefly the rise of romance novels featuring East Asian protagonists (that is, protagonists mainly of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean background), and then explores how these novels constitute “Asianness.” Drawing on Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism and Stanley Fish’s configuration of strong and weak multiculturalism, I will consider how references to history, culture, and, above all, a certain notion of the oppressive Asian family are used to create a sense of authentic Asianness in historical romances set in China, as well as in contemporary romances that also employ tropes about identity formation and identity crisis often found in Asian-American Young Adult novels.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Popular Romance Studies
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

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  • romance novels
  • Asian American literature
  • race and ethnicity
  • multiculturalism
  • Asian identity
  • Asianness
  • contemporary romance
  • diversity
  • East Asian American fiction
  • historical romance
  • orientalism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Diversity
  • Historical romance
  • Contemporary romance
  • Orientalism


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