The editors of Life Magazine, a mass-produced picture magazine, composed picture narratives that entertained, informed, and influenced mid-twentieth-century American society. Photo-Essays about Asian American Women in Life Magazine 1936 to 1965: Hidden Narratives and Breaking Stereotypes is a rhetorical analysis of how Life Magazine’s photo-essays represented and shaped white American middle-class attitudes toward Asian American women. In the time period studied, 1936 to1965, most white Americans were exposed to Asian woman primarily through film or in illustrated drawings. Hollywood in particular created caricatures depicting Asian women as evil dragon ladies or sex slaves, both of which implied prostitution, which affected their legal and social standing in early and mid-twentieth-century America. The book illustrates the ways in which the Life editors utilized the photo-essay as a narrative art form to counter stereotypical and racist Hollywood depictions of Asian women as prostitutes and to envision them as part of the American middle class, thereby promoting a sense of national identity that included Asians as Americans. This book will be of interest to scholars in the fields of women’s studies, cultural studies, visual culture, Asian American studies, and history.
Karen L. Ching Carter is senior lecturer in English at the University of Vaasa, FI.
List of Figures
Part One: Pre-War and the Great Depression, 1936-1940
Chapter 1: A Catholic “Chinese School” in America
Chapter 2: The Charm of Novelty When “Life Goes to the Forbidden City”
Chapter 3: “The Nisei” Spy Scare
Part Two: World War II and Japanese American Internment, 1942-1944
Chapter 4: Making Choices: “Coast Japs Are Interned at Mountain Camp”
Chapter 5: Competing Narratives about “Tule Lake Segregation Camp”
Part Three: In Preparation for Post-war Racial Harmony, 1945
Chapter 6: Stylish Western Wear in “Marine Pin-Ups and Glamour on Guam”
Chapter 7: Mixed-Race and Intermarriage in “Hawaii: A Melting Pot”
Part Four: The Sixties and the Civil Rights Era, 1960-1965
Chapter 8: Changed Perceptions: “Nancy Kwan: A New Star as Suzie Wong”
Chapter 9: Patsy Takemoto Mink: More than the “First Congresswoman from Overseas”
About the Author
A very exciting discussion on how visual semiotics were used to construct different narratives of Asian Americans though the pages of one of the most famous and long running magazine series ever published. Carter shows how the photo essays in Life Magazine helped to shape the various stereotypes of Asians in America by examining the both the composition of the images and their placement in relation to each other. This book is an excellent example of multimodal analysis wielded with a critical eye.