Book cover for Understanding Karen Tei Yamashita, by Jolie A. Sheffer

Understanding Karen Tei Yamashita

Understanding Karen Tei Yamashita (University of South Carolina Press, 2020) is a volume in the Understanding Contemporary American Literature Series at the University of South Carolina Press. It provides a clear and concise introduction to Yamashita’s biography, key motifs in her work, as well as offering research resources for advanced students and scholars. The book addresses major issues including global capitalism, immigration, and environmental justice. This volume serves as a crucial accompaniment to Yamashita’s novels, offering cogent commentary and analysis of her innovative, challenging texts, and providing useful explanations of major critical approaches and thematic concerns.


The Romance of Race

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930 (Rutgers University Press, 2013)

This book considers the role of minority women writers and reformers in the inauguration of modern American multiculturalism. Public figures like Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the image of the United States (and increasingly the world) as an interracial nuclear family. These women reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women, which result in an incestuous, miscegenated nation. By confronting and conflating the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Linking literature to citizenship and anti-miscegenation laws, as well as transnational cultural and economic exchanges, I identify a more radical history of American multiculturalism than is currently acknowledged.

  • See Review in American Literary History: ALH
  • See Review in American Studies: American Studies
  • See review in the Journal of American HistoryJAH
  • See review in MELUS, the journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States: MELUS

Journal Articles

“Introduction: Historical Fiction and the 1960s: Mediating the Past and Reimagining the Future.” Special Issue on “Re-Thinking, Re-Reading, and Re-Seeing Ethnic Historical Fiction,” MELUS 45.4 (Winter 2020), 1-21.

“Interracial Solidarity and Epistolary Form in Precarious Times: Karen Tei Yamashita’s Letters to Memory,” Arizona Quarterly 76. 4 (Winter 2020): 55-84.

With Stefanie D. Hunker, “Digital Curation Collaboration: Pedagogy in the Archives,” Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture 19.1 (January 2019): 79-105.

“The Optics of Interracial Sexuality in Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings and Sherman Alexie’s Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” Special issue on “Native/Asian Encounters,” edited by Hyoejin Yoon and Cari Carpenter. College Literature 41.1 (Winter 2014): 119-148.

“‘Citizen Sure Thing’ or ‘Jus’ Foreigner’?: Half-Caste Citizenship and the Family Romance in Onoto Watanna’s Orientalist Fiction,” Journal of Asian American Studies 13.1 (February 2010): 81-105.

“Recollecting, Repeating and Walking Through: Immigration, Trauma, and Space in Mary Antin’s The Promised Land,MELUS 35.1 (Spring 2010): 141-166.

Book Chapters

“Many Endings, Many Beginnings.” Teaching the Works of Karen Tei Yamashita, edited by Ruth Hsu and Pamela Thoma, Modern Language Association, 2021, 76-81.

“Slave to Love: Erotic Excess in Asian American Miscegenation Plots.” Asian American Literature in Transition, 1850 – 1930 (Volume 1), edited by Josephine Lee and Julia Lee, Cambridge University Press, 2021, pp. 264-280.

“Realism and Race.” The Oxford Handbook of American Literary Realism, edited by Keith Newlin, Oxford University Press, 2019. 269-84.

“Standing on Top of the World: Masculinity and Imperialism on Everest.” Linda K. Fuller, ed., Sexual Sports Rhetoric: Global and Universal Contexts. New York: Peter Lang, 2010. 293-305.

Essay on The Promised Land by Mary Antin. Abby H. P. Werlock, ed., Facts on File Companion to the American Novel. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Book Reviews

Review of Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America by Brigitte Fielder (2020). American Literary History Online Review, Series XXIX (March 2022).

Review Essay of Imperfect Unions: Staging Miscegenation in U.S. Drama and Fiction by Diana Rebekkah Paulin (2012) and The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory by Tavia Nyong’o (2009). Journal of American Ethnic History 34.1 (Fall 2014).

Review of Melting Pot Modernism, by Sarah Wilson (2010). Modern Fiction Studies 60.2 (Fall 2014).

Review of Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896-1937, by Julia H. Lee (2011). MELUS 37.4 (Winter 2012). PDF.

Review of Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States, ed. Bill V. Mullen and James Smethurst (2003). Virginia Quarterly Review (Spring 2004).

Review of 3 Asian American Writers Speak Out on Feminism, by Mitsuye Yamada, Merle Woo, and Nellie Wong (2003). Iris: A Journal about Women (Fall 2003).

Other Publications

See Leadership & Administration page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s