American Knees

Redefining Asian American Masculinity in Shawn Wong’s American Knees

Even in a globalized community that consists of a blending of many different cultures and races, stereotypes still thrive in the modern day. Two persistent and contrasting stereotypes of Asian American men exist: the first is that they are sexually deficient and weak, physically and in their relationships, as well as being bound by their filial obligations, while the second paints them as hypermasculine savages. Author Shawn Wong strives to disprove these stereotypes and redefine the masculinity of the Asian American man in his novel, American Knees, through the actions, interactions, and personality of its protagonist, Raymond Ding.

The novel begins by questioning Asian American male stereotypes as Raymond is in the process of divorcing his wife, Darleen. Darleen and her family represented the traditional and accepted way of life for a Chinese American: strong filial bonds and unity, a restaurant business the whole family was all involved in, and also an expected pattern of occurrences, described on page 6 with the early stages of Raymond and Darleen’s relationship, “He and Darleen would… fall in love, get married, and have children- preferably male children- who would be given fabulous red-egg parties on their one-month...

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