The stereotypes presented in the novel, Typical American by Gish Jen, clearly show a mutual misunderstanding between races. It also illustrates the use of racism as a defense mechanism when new to integration and assimilation. Stereotypes in this story are a sort of segue from an old way of living, to a new one. Typical American is the story of Ralph Chang, who came to America on a scholarship to become an engineer. While in America, the revolution occurred in China, which essentially left him stuck in there whether he liked it or not. When he was at his lowest of lows, his sister, Theresa, found him, and brought him to live with her and her friend Helen. Ralph and Helen wind up getting married, and begin a family, which naturally includes Theresa. Along the way they meet Grover, who effects their lives deeply.
[...] This is not, however, uncommon. On our own campus of Siena Heights University, there is a very apparent racial divide. Thus is not fueled by any sort of racism either. This author has looked into this divide for the past four years and has seen that it is definitely not any one person's fault. It appears that the African Americans on campus seek each other out and simply associate with each other. They may have some random friends or acquaintances who are not African American, but for the most part they stick together. [...]
[...] This sadly would most likely have been returned with some other snide comment in order for the speaker to save face. Typical American pride? The interesting part of all of this, is that the Changs began to take on characteristics that they had previously looked down on in the American culture. Ralph became greedy and selfish. Helen and Theresa both had affairs. Theresa, rather, was the affair in her situation. They all became very temperamental with each other, and ultimately unhappy. Theresa moved out because of tension over her affair. Their Chinese family values were falling through the cracks. [...]
[...] They would rather impress everyone, and get theirs, than help, love and support each other as they had in the past. All of these American dreams they were trying to fulfill should have been making them happy, but, truth be told, they were much happier, and surely more ethical, when they were living in poverty. In poverty they were a traditional Chinese family. Albert Feuerwerker describes the modern chinese family as, “Essentially its realm is that of is that of domestic life, a realm of co-residence and the constant involvement in affairs of the hearth, children, and marriage” (Feuerwerker, 28). [...]
[...] is backed up by an actual lesson plan that outlines Asian stereotypes of Americans. Marjorie and Peter Li list these things as dominant stereotypes: “Americans are rich, Americans shout a lot, Americans wear cowboy boots and eat hot dogs, Americans are very aggressive, Americans have superficial relationships, Americans think only of money, Americans are friendly” 87). So this is not just a situation used for the plot of a book. It is very real. The Changs, like many others before and after them, rather than making themselves feel demeaned, they turned the blame around on the country they now called home. [...]
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