Mediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs

Relative HistoriesRelative Histories: Mediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs, by Rocio G. Davis, focuses on the Asian American memoir that specifically recounts the story of at least three generations of the same family. This form of auto/biography concentrates as much on other members of one’s family as on oneself, generally collapses the boundaries conventionally established between biography and autobiography, and in many cases—as Davis proposes for the auto/biographies of ethnic writers—crosses the frontier into history, promoting collective memory. Davis centers on how Asian American family memoirs expand the limits and function of life writing by reclaiming history and promoting community cohesion. She argues that identity is shaped by not only the stories we have been told, but also the stories we tell, making these narratives important examples of the ways we remember our family’s past and tell our community’s story.

Relative Histories is original in several key ways: the emphasis upon very contemporary, under-explored narratives; the use of a wide range of critical approaches to the study of life writing; the blending of film and literature and the discussion of the use of photography. The study thus would not only make a new contribution to Asian American studies but would intervene in debates on life writing, film, literature, and photography in a more general manner.” —Helena Grice, Aberystwyth University

November 2010 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3458-6 / $39.00 (CLOTH)