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Relative HistoriesMediating History in Asian American Family Memoirs$
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Rocío G. Davis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834586

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834586.001.0001

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Multiple Journeys and Palimpsestic Diasporas

Multiple Journeys and Palimpsestic Diasporas

(p.69) Chapter 4 Multiple Journeys and Palimpsestic Diasporas
Relative Histories

Rocío G. Davis

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines three family memoirs that illustrate the experience of travel and displacement within Asia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: Jael Silliman's Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames (2001), which recounts the history of the Baghdadi Jews' settlement and progressive acculturation to India through the story of four generations of women in her family; Motiba's Tattoos (2001), in which Mira Kamdar describes her Indian family's settlement in Burma as part of the possibilities of mobility within the British empire; and China in Still Life With Rice (1996), in which Helie Lee paints a portrait of her Korean grandmother's life as a refugee. In all three texts, the authors depict their forebears' travel to and existence within spaces where they were classified as “other” within Asia, illustrating a history of multiple diasporas that was often elided after the family's immigration to the United States. These family memoirs also challenge previous notions of Asian immigrants as possessors of “pure” cultures and promote the kind of collective memory necessary for mutual recognition.

Keywords:   family memoirs, travel, displacement, Jael Silliman, Mira Kamdar, Helie Lee, diaspora, immigration, Asian immigrants, collective memory

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