Middle-Class Asian American Women in a Global Frame: Refiguring the Statue of Liberty in Divakaruni and Minatoya

Sau-ling C. Wong
September 2004
MELUS;Fall/Winter2004, Vol. 29 Issue 3/4, p183
Academic Journal
This article attempts to look at middle-class Asian American women from an international perspective. The Statue of Liberty serves as a potent symbol of the American nation in four ways that are relevant to Divakaruni's and Minatoya's texts. First, situated at Ellis island through which the great wave of immigrants from Europe passed during the turn of the last century, she represents the nation's gatekeeper. Secondly, as a female embodiment of the nation, she is the generous nurturer (while her male visual counterpart, Uncle Sam, is most often cast in roles of authority and demand). This benefactor aspect is made clear in the famous poem by Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus," inscribed on the pedestal of the Statue. In a more general sense, the Statue is the exemplar of America's self-ideals, its most cherished values, such as freedom, equality, and the opportunity to pursue happiness. Finally, as a highly exportable symbol instantly recognizable by people all over the world, the Statue, in her traveling incarnation, is the emissary of America's promise. In two photographs of the Goddess of Democracy created by Chinese student protestors before the Tiananmen Square Massacre of June 4, 1989, a contemporary example of the Statue's transnational influence can be seen.


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