Detecting Winnifred Eaton

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2014-01-19 04:33Z by Steven

Detecting Winnifred Eaton

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States
Published online: 2014-01-16
DOI: 10.1093/melus/mlt078

Jinny Huh, Assistant Professor of English
University of Vermont

In her recent introduction to Winnifred Eaton’s Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model (1916), Karen E. H. Skinazi explores the relationship between racial ambiguity—that of both the anonymous author and the heroines in Marion and its predecessor, Me: A Book of Remembrance (1915)—and the audience’s ability to detect racial coding. “Me’s success,” Skinazi states, “has been predicated on a mystery that allowed each reader the chance to become a literary Sherlock Holmes, cracking the codes of its vault of shocking secrets” (xvii). Later, Skinazi writes that a New York Times reviewer, playing detective, solves Eaton’s racial passing utilizing the science of detection à la Edgar Allan Poe (xxi-xxii). Skinazi’s allusions to the art of detection, although brief, are astute, leading to this essay’s rereading of Eaton’s legacy through the lens of detection and the anxieties produced by its failures, especially the threat of racial passing. It is no coincidence that Eaton published her fiction at a time when both classic detective fiction and African American passing tales were at the peak of their popularity.

Few critics have examined Eaton’s role in the detective genre. This essay responds to this oversight by arguing that Eaton’s reliance on a trope of racial and ethnic passing, both in her choice of pseudonym and in her Japanese romances, cannot be fully appreciated without situating her within the context of the panic about detecting passing that swept America during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The unique lens of detective fiction allows us further to conceptualize Eaton’s role as a founding figure of Asian American fiction. This essay also highlights Eaton’s familiarity with rules of genre, particularly detective fiction and African American passing narratives, and her participation in the construction of racial epistemologies that were then being codified by…

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“Citizen Sure Thing” or “Jus’ Foreigner”?: Half-Caste Citizenship and the Family Romance in Onoto Watanna’s Orientalist Fiction

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2013-04-20 16:06Z by Steven

“Citizen Sure Thing” or “Jus’ Foreigner”?: Half-Caste Citizenship and the Family Romance in Onoto Watanna’s Orientalist Fiction

Journal of Asian American Studies
Volume 13, Number 1, February 2010
DOI: 10.1353/jaas.0.0067
pages 81-105

Jolie A. Sheffer,  Associate Professor, English and American Culture Studies
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

In “a contract” (1902), one of Winnifred Eaton’s popular orientalist romances published under the pen name Onoto Watanna, O-Kiku-san, a young Japanese woman, explains to her suitor, the Japanese-born but racially white businessman Masters, the difference between citizenship and belonging. She tells him, “You Japanese citizen sure thing . . . all the same you jus’ foreigner, all the same.” Masters protests, insisting, “You are trying to rob me of my birthright. Am I or am I not Japanese?” (56). Kiku’s answer is unwavering: “Japanese citizen, yes. . . . Japanese man? No, naever” (56). Speaking as a full-blooded Japanese woman in Japan, Kiku articulates the vast gap between legal rights and social recognition, between being a “sure” citizen under the law while nevertheless (“all the same”) being perceived as “jus’ foreigner,” one who is virtually indistinguishable from all other foreigners (as indicated by the repetition of “all the same”). In this scene, Masters wants to be recognized as Japanese, and the most effective means by which he imagines achieving recognition is to marry a Japanese woman, with the hope that “the next of our line possibly may be partly Japanese, and the next” (56). In this story, as throughout Eaton’s body of work, those who look different on account of race—whether as a white man in Japan or a biracial woman in the United States—are perpetually seen as “jus'” foreigners. The white man’s status as perpetual foreigner in Japan neatly reverses the far more common experience of Asians in early-twentieth-century America, particularly since Kiku’s judgment of Masters’s foreignness is also based on his apparent failure to assimilate: he was educated in the West and lives in the English colony within Japan. Here, as throughout Eaton’s fiction, mixed blood is the primary measure of and means to cultural acceptance, more powerful than the legal rights granted by citizenship and more persuasive than residency.

Eaton’s formulation of the “citizen sure thing” who is nonetheless a perpetual foreigner complicates Lisa Lowe’s now-paradigmatic account of the ways that “the American citizen has been defined over against the Asian immigrant, legally, economically, and culturally.” Again and again in Eaton’s fiction, the route to recognition is imagined through romance, breeding, and familial ties, embodied by the figure of the “half-caste,” the offspring of a white man and a Japanese woman. With her focus on the plight of the biracial figure born of the West’s previous encounters with the East, Eaton’s stories should be read as aggressive dramas of national belonging in which white men desire mixed-race women, and mixed-race children demand recognition in the U.S. family. In the story “A Half Caste” (1899) in particular, Eaton merges the interracial love story with a familial reunification plot in order to make the controversial claim that the threat of incest may be productive, serving as the means by which the half-caste can secure her rights as daughter and citizen. In Eaton’s fiction, the moment of incestuous desire and its disclosure occasions recognition of the half-caste’s rights as a member of the family and, by extension, as a citizen of the American “fatherland.”

The term “half-caste,” which was invented to define the mixed-race children of European fathers and Indian mothers on the subcontinent, relies upon the entrenched gendering of raced bodies and the racialization of women. In America as in Europe, masculinity and fatherhood have long been associated with the West, while femininity and motherhood have been aligned with racial and cultural Otherness. In the United States, ever since Commodore Matthew Perry “opened” Japan to American trade in 1853, American audiences have responded enthusiastically to the image of an American captain penetrating the mystical, oriental East via military and economic might—symbolized by the cannons extending from Commodore Perry’s ships when he entered Tokyo Bay. This “scenario” of Western political-sexual conquest, to use Diana Taylor’s term for the “predictable, formulaic, hence repeatable” forms that tropes of…

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Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896-1937

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2013-03-06 20:05Z by Steven

Interracial Encounters: Reciprocal Representations in African and Asian American Literatures, 1896-1937

New York University Press
October 2011
228 pages
Hardcover ISBN: 9780814752555
Paper ISBN: 9780814752562

Julia H. Lee, Assistant Professor of English and Asian American Studies
University of Texas, Austin

2013 Honorable Mention, Asian American Studies Association’s prize in Literary Studies

Why do black characters appear so frequently in Asian American literary works and Asian characters appear in African American literary works in the early twentieth century? Interracial Encounters attempts to answer this rather straightforward literary question, arguing that scenes depicting Black-Asian interactions, relationships, and conflicts capture the constitution of African American and Asian American identities as each group struggled to negotiate the racially exclusionary nature of American identity.

In this nuanced study, Julia H. Lee argues that the diversity and ambiguity that characterize these textual moments radically undermine the popular notion that the history of Afro-Asian relations can be reduced to a monolithic, media-friendly narrative, whether of cooperation or antagonism. Drawing on works by Charles Chesnutt, Wu Tingfang, Edith and Winnifred Eaton, Nella Larsen, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Younghill Kang, Interracial Encounters foregrounds how these reciprocal representations emerged from the nation’s pervasive pairing of the figure of the “Negro” and the “Asiatic” in oppositional, overlapping, or analogous relationships within a wide variety of popular, scientific, legal, and cultural discourses. Historicizing these interracial encounters within a national and global context highlights how multiple racial groups shaped the narrative of race and national identity in the early twentieth century, as well as how early twentieth century American literature emerged from that multiracial political context.

Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. The “Negro Problem” and the “Yellow Peril”: Early Twentieth-Century America’s Views on Blacks and Asians
  • 3. Estrangement on a Train: Race and Narratives of American Identity in The Marrow of Tradition and America through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat
  • 4. The Eaton Sisters Go to Jamaica
  • 5. Quicksand and the Racial Aesthetics of Chinoiserie
  • 6. Nation, Narration, and the Afro-Asian Encounter in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Dark Princess and Younghill Kang’s East Goes West
  • 7. Coda
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • About the Author
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Me: A Book of Remembrance

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Novels, Women on 2013-02-17 21:41Z by Steven

Me: A Book of Remembrance

University Press of Mississippi
1997 (Originally published in 1915)
368 pages
Cloth ISBN: 0878059911 (9780878059911)
Paper ISBN: 087805992X (9780878059928)

Winnifred Eaton (1875-1954)

Afterword by:

Linda Trinh Moser, Professor of English
Missouri State University

A Chinese-Eurasian’s autobiographical novel tracing a woman’s dual quest for a writing career and romance

Ironically, Winnifred Eaton published most of her works under a Japanese-sounding name, Onoto Watanna, but she was of Chinese ancestry.

In Me: Book of Rembrance her narrator is called Nora Ascouth, but in the plot, as Nora journeys from her birthplace in Canada to the West Indies and to the United States, Eaton recounts her own early life and writing career. One of sixteen children, Nora leaves her destitute family in Quebec to earn a living. Only seventeen and with ten dollars in her pocket she sets sail for Jamaica and the chance to do newspaper work. Nora ends up in Chicago, moving from job to job, trying all along to sell stories she writes in her spare time. When she discovers that the man with whom she is in love is married, she moves to New York and gains achievement as a novelist. Against this nineteenth-century sensibility of Nora’s search for success and love, Eaton conveys the powerlessness of the typical young woman of the working class. Her autobiographical plotline discloses a remarkable secret, Eaton’s reticence about her own half-Chinese ancestry.

Despite the silence of the text, Me: A Book of Rembrance reveals turn-of-the-century views on race, gender, and class. In Jamaica Nora describes the racial inequities and disparities. Moreover, when she says, “I myself was dark and foreign-looking, but the blond type I adored,” she reveals the extent of her own internalized oppression. Although the author believes her own mixed ancestry precludes prejudice on her part, the text proves otherwise. Like other ethnic immigrants, Nora is indoctrinated into America’s Anglo preference.

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Edith and Winnifred Eaton: Chinatown Missions and Japanese Romances

Posted in Biography, Books, Canada, Monographs, Women on 2012-11-27 04:01Z by Steven

Edith and Winnifred Eaton: Chinatown Missions and Japanese Romances

University of Illinois Press
2002
240 pages
6 x 9 in.
14 black & white photographs, 7 line drawings
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-02721-5

Dominika Ferens, Professor of American Literature and Writing
University of Wrocław, Wrocław, Poland

Daughters of a British father and a Chinese mother, Edith and Winnifred Eaton pursued wildly different paths. While Edith wrote stories of downtrodden Chinese immigrants under the pen name Sui Sin Far, Winnifred presented herself as Japanese American and published Japanese romance novels in English under the name Onoto Watanna. In this invigorating reappraisal of the vision and accomplishments of the Eaton sisters, Dominika Ferens departs boldly from the dichotomy that has informed most commentary on them: Edith’s “authentic” representations of Chinese North Americans versus Winnifred’s “phony” portrayals of Japanese characters and settings.

Arguing that Edith as much as Winnifred constructed her persona along with her pen name, Ferens considers the fiction of both Eaton sisters as ethnography. Edith and Winnifred Eaton suggests that both authors wrote through the filter of contemporary ethnographic discourse on the Far East and also wrote for readers hungry for “authentic” insight into the morals, manners, and mentality of an exotic other.

Ferens traces two distinct discursive traditions–-missionary and travel writing–-that shaped the meanings of “China” and “Japan” in the nineteenth century. She shows how these traditions intersected with the unconventional literary careers of the Eaton sisters, informing the sober, moralistic tone of Edith’s stories as well as Winnifred’s exotic narrative style, plots, settings, and characterizations.

Bringing to the Eatons’ writings a contemporary understanding of the racial and textual politics of ethnographic writing, this important account shows how these two very different writers claimed ethnographic authority, how they used that authority to explore ideas of difference, race, class and gender, and how their depictions of nonwhites worked to disrupt the process of whites’ self-definition.

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The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2012-09-23 02:44Z by Steven

The Romance of Race: Incest, Miscegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930

Rutgers University Press
January 2013
240 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-5462-4
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-5463-1
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8135-5464-8

Jolie A. Sheffer, Associate Professor, English and American Culture Studies
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

In the United States miscegenation is not merely a subject of literature and popular culture. It is in many ways the foundation of contemporary imaginary community. The Romance of Race examines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of our modern American multiculturalism.

The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. A generation of women writers and reformers—particularly women of color—contributed to these debates by imagining new national narratives that put minorities at the center of American identity. Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the images of the United States—and increasingly the world—as an interracial nuclear family. They also reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women that produced an incestuous, mixed-race nation.

By mobilizing the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these women writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Through their criticisms of the nation’s history of exploitation and colonization, they also imagined a more inclusive future. As Jolie A. Sheffer identifies the contemporary template for American multiculturalism in the works of turn-of-the century minority writers, she uncovers a much more radical history than has previously been considered.

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The Heart of Hyacinth

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Media Archive, Novels on 2012-07-23 21:44Z by Steven

The Heart of Hyacinth

University of Washington Press
2000 (Originally published in 1903)
288 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/2
Paperback ISBN: paperback (9780295979168

Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton) (1875-1954)

Introduction by:

Samina Najmi, Professor of English
California State University, Fresno

The Heart of Hyacinth, originally published in 1903, tells the coming-of-age story of Hyacinth Lorrimer, a child of white parents who was raised from infancy in Japan by a Japanese foster mother and assumed to be Eurasian. A crisis occurs when, 18 years after her birth, her American father returns to Japan to reclaim her just as Hyacinth has become engaged to a Japanese aristocrat, and she forcefully asserts her Japanese ties only to find that her prospective father-in-law will not tolerate a white wife for his son. Onoto Watanna creates in her protagonist a young white woman who not only claims a Japanese identity but shifts between her Japaneseness and her whiteness as expediency dictates. In this novel Watanna is on the cutting edge of what we now call race theory, using that theory-of racial constructions and fluidity-in the service of an avant-garde feminism.

Onoto Watanna (pen name for Winnifred Eaton) was a popular writer of American romance novels. Daughter of a Chinese mother and English father, she used her own mixed heritage to explore diverse social issues and exploited the Orientalist fantasies of her readership to become a best-selling author. Samina Najmi is visiting assistant professor in English at Wheaton College and has written extensively on women and race in Asian American literature.

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Ambivalent passages: racial and cultural crossings in Onoto Watanna’s The Heart of Hyacinth

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-07-23 20:55Z by Steven

Ambivalent passages: racial and cultural crossings in Onoto Watanna’s The Heart of Hyacinth

MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.
Volume 34, Number 1 (Spring 2009)
pages 211-229
DOI: 10.1353/mel.0.0004

Huining Ouyang, Professor of English
Edgewood College, Madison, Wisconsin

Appearing in the early fall of 1903 in time for the Christmas season, The Heart of Hyacinth, like other Japanese romances by Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), was widely promoted as a holiday gift book, enchanting readers with its “exquisite” Japanese design and its “delicate,” “charming” tale of Japan. For many, their pleasure in the novel’s Japanese appearance and sentiment was enhanced by their knowledge of its author’s alleged Japanese nativity or ethnicity. As one reviewer emphasizes: “We have a childish pleasure in things Japanese. . . . There is, therefore, a piquant pleasure for us in a story of Japanese life written by a native” (Heart, Republican). Similarly, another reviewer opens by introducing the author as “Onoto Watanna, the dainty little gentlewoman from Japan, who writes so delightfully of her native country” (“Heart,” Banner). Others, on the other hand, attribute the author’s “sympathy with Japanese life” (Kinkaid) or her portrayal of Japanese life “as seen from the inside” (Heart, Register) to her half-Japanese parentage. Thus, still largely convincing to the reading public, Watanna’s Japanese writing persona continued to allow her to dissimulate as an exemplar of the feminine, simple aesthetic and authentic ethnographer of Japan.

Watanna’s performance of Japaneseness, through her “Japanese” romances and especially her Japanese authorial persona, links her with the practice of “passing,” or the crossing of identity boundaries by those on the racial and cultural margins. An act of transgression, passing allows an individual in the liminal position, as Elaine K. Ginsberg puts it, to “assume a new identity, escaping the subordination and oppression accompanying one identity and accessing the privileges and status of the other” (3). As a woman of Chinese and English descent living and writing in an era of virulent anti-Chinese sentiments in North America, Onoto Watanna devised strategies of passing not only to escape personal and racial persecution but also to achieve authorship in a white-male-dominant literary marketplace. By appropriating the popular genre of Japanese romance and adopting the guise of an exotic half-Japanese woman writer, she exploited her white reading audience’s orientalist fantasies and enabled herself to achieve visibility and authority in a field dominated by such luminaries as Lafcadio Hearn, Pierre Loti, and John Luther Long.
 
In The Heart of Hyacinth, however, passing serves as not only a tactic of ethnic female authorship but also an important narrative strategy that governs both theme and plot. Although reviewers have variously described it as “an ideal gift-book,” “a Japanese idyll,” or a delicate “Japanese love story,” Watanna’s novel weaves, in effect, a complex narrative of identity in which she negotiates with orientalist binary constructions of the East and the West and explores through the Eurasian figure the promise and perils of boundary crossing. As its title suggests, Watanna’s novel centers on the tale of Hyacinth, a white American “orphan” who has been adopted and reared by a Japanese woman and who discovers her white racial origin when her American father attempts to claim her seventeen years after her birth. Although she eventually comes to terms with her white parentage, her heart belongs to her Japanese adoptive mother and to Komazawa, the Eurasian foster-brother she grew up with and with whom she now falls in love. However, like Watanna’s first novel, Miss Numè of Japan, The Heart of Hyacinth tells more than what its title seems to imply. Hyacinth’s struggles with her familial, cultural, and racial allegiances intersect with her adoptive Eurasian brother’s negotiations of his own mixed heritage. Despite her discovery of her white heritage, Hyacinth claims a Japanese identity and resists Western colonial paternalism, while Komazawa passes into British society and navigates his biraciality with apparent ease in his endeavors to become “English.”

A coming-of-age narrative of two Eurasians, one actual and the other metaphorical, Watanna’s novel thus imagines passing in two different forms. On the one hand, through Komazawa’s physical and…

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The arresting eye: Race and the detection of deception

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing on 2012-07-19 00:29Z by Steven

The arresting eye: Race and the detection of deception

University of Southern California
December 2005
282 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3220115
ISBN: 9780542713217

Jinny Huh

A Dissertation Presented to the FACULTY OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (ENGLISH)

With increasing rates of miscegenation and racially invisible bodies, how is race to be determined? This dissertation examines the dynamics and discourse of race detection through a comparative analysis of detective fiction and passing narratives, two genres that witnessed a simultaneous rise during the mid-nineteenth century. I argue that the detective fiction genre in many ways prospers and responds to the anxiety of racial indecipherability by creating a systematic method of detection. By examining narratives of detection and passing written by both white and ethnic authors ranging from Arthur Conan Doyle and Earl Derr Biggers to Pauline Hopkins and Winnifred Eaton, among others, this study demonstrates that the politics and mechanics of race detection is highly specific to the eye of the gazer attuned to distinguishing the signs of race. For example, while Dupin and Holmes may exhibit mystically and supernaturally intuitive powers, Pauline Hopkins (author of the first African American detective in Hagar’s Daughter) shows that intuition and race detection is a necessary component of the African American community. On the other hand, Winnifred Eaton (the first Asian American novelist) responds to the obsession with detection by promoting a rhetoric of undetection in the emergence of Asian American fiction. Finally, in response to Eaton’s celebration of undetection within the Asian American context, Earl Derr Biggers’s Charlie Chan series demonstrate the anxieties of promoting an Asian American detective hero during the height of Yellow Peril paranoia.

In addition to examining the politics of race detection in literature, this dissertation also explores how numerous disciplines formulate their own concepts of “racial knowledges” via a discourse of detection (such as film studies, visual studies, law, ethnography, and literary history). As such, through a comparative focus which encompasses multiple levels (19th/20th century, male/female, British/American, African American/Asian American, literature/film), my study also addresses the potential threat and implications of racial erasure to Ethnic Studies specifically and Civil Rights overall.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Whispers of Norbury: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Modernist Crisis of Racial (Un)Detection
  • Chapter Two: Intuitive Faculties and Racial Clairvoyance: Pauline Hopkins and the Emergence of Multiethnic Detective Fiction
  • Chapter Three: The Legacy of Winnifred Eaton: Ethnic Ambidexterity, Undetection as Guerilla Tactics, and the Emergence of Asian American Fiction
  • Chapter Four: “The Jaundiced Eye”: Charlie Chan and the Mysterious Disappearance of a Detective Hero
  • Bibliography

Purchase the dissertation here.

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Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Women on 2012-04-04 02:10Z by Steven

Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model

McGill-Queen’s University Press
2012-03-19
410 pages
21 b&w photos
6 x 9
Paper (077353962X) 9780773539624

Winnifred Eaton (1875-1954)

Introduction by:

Karen E. H. Skinazi, Lecturer
Princeton Writing Program
Princeton University

The daughter of an English merchant father and Chinese mother, Winnifred Eaton (1875-1954) was a wildly popular fiction writer in her time. Born in Montreal, Eaton lived in Jamaica and several places in the United States before settling in Alberta. Her books, many of them published under the Japanese pseudonym Onoto Watanna, encompass the experiences of marginalized women in Canada, Jamaica, the United States, and a romantic, imagined Japan. Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model is Eaton’s only book that explicitly deals with being “foreign” in Canada.

The novel follows the life of “half-foreign” Marion Ascough—a character based on Eaton’s own sister—while never identifying her “foreignness.” Escaping the unrelenting racial discrimination her family endures in Quebec, Marion follows her dream of being an artist by moving to New York, where she becomes “Canadian” instead of ethnic – a more palatable foreignness. Having successfully stripped herself of her ethnicity, Marion continues to experience discrimination and objectification as a woman, failing as an artist and becoming an artist’s model. Karen Skinazi’s introduction to Eaton’s fascinating narrative draws attention to the fact that although the novel uses many of the conventions of the “race secret” story, this time the secret is never revealed.

This new edition of Marion: The Story of An Artist’s Model brings back into print a compelling and sophisticated treasure of Asian Canadian/American fiction that offers a rare perspective on ethnicity, gender, and identity.

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