Asian Americans in Contemporary American Life;
Identity and Society
Research; Shaping Information into Argument;
Complexity into Clarity
A Content Map:
The “Rise of Asian Americans”?
Myths and Realities
“In recent years, U.S. news outlets have applauded the ‘rise of
“But this portrait is misleading.”
A brief history of the “model minority” concept.
The “model minority” concept in relation to African-Americans and
Caucasians. (“In both comparisons—with blacks and whites—
Asian American success is viewed as coming at the expense of
Information drawn from census data regarding the educational
diversity and economic diversity of Asian Americans: they are
represented in the upper and lower ends of the spectrum.
“A closer look at Cambodian Americans serves to illustrate
the dangers of grouping diverse Asian Americans into one
monolithic portrait of success.”
The struggles faced by Cambodian Americans: PTSD from
the Cambodian genocide, issues with assimilating into
American society, including learning English.
Effects of the model-minority myth:
Asian Americans remain quiet about their struggles, including
struggles with racism, therefore perpetuating more racism.
Asian Americans don’t work for progressive social change, due to
perceived privilege and high achievement.
Asian Americans continue to be used as a foil for racist ideas about
others, including African Americans and Hispanics.
Japan’s economic success in the 1980s leads to racism
in the US. The 1982 killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit. The spark of
civil rights activism against hate crimes towards Asian Americans.
China’s success in the 1990s leads to racism towards Chinese
and Chinese Americans.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 leads to racism towards
Muslims Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, and South
For your third graded paper, you will write an essay that explores a topic related to issues
experienced by Asian Americans in contemporary American life. You will be put into one of
five groups, with the groups delving into one overall topic:
Asian Americans in Popular/Cultural Media
Racism and Asian Americans
Sexuality and Asian Americans
Politics and Asian Americans
Theme-To-Be-Determined and Asian Americans
The end result of this assignment will be an essay of 5 pages that focuses on one aspect of the
overall topic. The first part of your work will involve doing general research into the topic. This
initial research will give you a sense of the topic’s breadth, as well as giving you an opportunity
to identify the specific themes, questions, and issues that relate to the topic. Once you have done
this initial research, you will identify a more specific aspect of the topic that you will explore
further. For example, in the topic focused on media representation, you might go deeper into the
question of how Asian American women are represented in the media. Or, for another example,
in the topic focused on sexuality and Asian Americans, you might focus on trans Asian
Americans. Once you have identified your specific focus, you will continue to do research that’s
more directly about that topical focus. The sources that you use for your research must be
reliable sources—such as scholarly articles, articles found in reputable journalistic outlets, and
essays, stories, and poems published in literary magazines and journals.
When you are shaping your essay, consider the discussion we had about Erika Lee’s “The ‘Rise
of Asian Americans”?: Myths and Realities.” As noted in our discussion, the opening section of
Lee’s essay provides an overview of the current perception regarding Asian American success.
This is followed by sections that complicate the success story by discussing the problematic
“model minority” label attached to Asian Americans, the diversity of educational and economic
statuses experienced by Asian Americans, and the continuing racism experienced by Asian
Americans from the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s. We also noted that Lee’s essay presents an
argument. It examines the conventional notion of Asian American success and describes the
more complicated realities actually experienced by Asian Americans.
Your own essay should follow the same general shape as Lee’s essay: the essay should provide
an overview of your topic, then focus on the aspect of the topic that you’ve chosen to explore in
more complex detail. The body of your essay should present the ideas and information that you
gleaned from your research, with strategic quoting and citing from the sources you consulted.
As you are formulating the specific aspect that you’ll present in your essay, aim for an argument
that relates to a question or set of questions, as Lee does in her article. For example, your
argument might respond to these questions: “Are Asian American women depicted in sexist
ways in cultural/popular media? If so, how?” Or, still another example: “How do trans Asian
Americans view their trans identities in the context of being Asian American?”
Your essay should be 5 pages double-spaced, in Times New Roman 12-point font. At the end of
your essay, include a “Bibliography” that lists all the sources you used, formatted according to
MLA. These essays will be graded using the following rubric categories: 1.) how well you
summarize your overall topic and the specific aspect of that topic you will explore in more depth,
including the guiding questions that will shape your inquiry and the essay itself; 2.) how well the
specific aspect is developed in the body of the essay, including the use of a variety of
information, detail, examples, and complex ideas to flesh out that aspect; 3.) the breadth and
variety of your source materials, and your use of those materials in quoting and citing; 4.)
mechanics, including the care brought to editing the essay as a whole