Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies, Vol 1 (2010)

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Interrogating Identity Construction: Bodies versus Community in Cynthia Kadohata’s In the Heart of the Valley of Love

Nicole Myoshi Rabin

Abstract


In an interview for the journal MELUS,  Hsiu-chuan Lee claims that Cynthia Kadohata suggests her novel In the Heart of the Valley of Love does not directly take “any specific ethnicity as its central concern,” nor deal explicitly with the “identity issue” (165, 179).  Despite these assertions by the author, In the Heart of the Valley of Love is mainly taught at the university level in Asian American Literature courses.  While Kadohata’s novel has been established within this specific canon of Asian American Literature, her novel deals with issues that resonate among all racial groups. This paper considers the ways in which Kadohata creates an imagined future not wholly detached from issues of race and identity, but where the conceptualization of race-based identity is conceived by means of self-fashioning and self-signifying. In the novel’s “futuristic” American society, concerns of class and the divides of wealth between the white “richtowns” and the multiracial majority may seem to be the central themes, but issues of race and issues of class become conflated in the novel, and Kadohata uses more subtle ways to discuss issues of racial difference.  What Kadohata suggests through her novel In the Heart of the Valley of Love is not that racialized bodies cease to be of importance in American society, but that race as a critical factor in identity formation and categorization must be reframed by self-signification and social interactions.


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