Paul Nadal connects Asian American activism and literature

Thursday, Feb 11, 2021

In a feature in the French paper Le Monde on Asian American writers, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies Paul Nadal describes how a literary movement has accompanied the term Asian American from the term’s emergence in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Through this term, necessarily unsatisfactory because it cannot cover the plurality of a continent, the activists of the late 1960s sought a pan-ethnic identity,” Nadal said.

The Asian American literary movement was, in its early years, not widely visible, Nadal said. Within two decades, it would be widely established in universities.

The article profiles writers including poet and novelist Ocean Vuong, recipient of the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry, and a 2019 MacArthur Grant (widely known as a “genius grant”); New York Times Bestseller Jia Tolentino, staff writer for The New Yorker, who read at Princeton in the 2019-20 Asian American Studies Lecture Series; 2020 National Book Award winner Charles Yu, who appears in conversation with Nadal on Thursday, February 11 at 5 p.m.; and Viet Thanh Nguyen, a regular contributor to The New York Times opinion pages.

Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer (Grove Press/Atlantic, 2015) won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and, Nadal told Le Monde, “catapulted Asian literature into the mainstream.”

The article appears online (subscription required) and in the February 5, 2021 issue of M Le Mag.