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AsianfailNarratives of Disenchantment and the Model Minority$
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Eleanor Ty

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040887

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040887.001.0001

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Precarity and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

Precarity and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

(p.27) Chapter 1 Precarity and the Pursuit of Unhappiness

Eleanor Ty

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines three works by Japanese North American writers: Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being,Mariko Tamaki's novella Cover Me, and her graphic novel Skim, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Though different in narrative style and technique, these three texts feature Japanese North American teens, who struggle with identity issues, family instability, self-esteem, and depression. The protagonists are unable to follow the kind of hard-working immigrant ethos of their parents; instead, they pursue what looks like a path to unhappiness, and suffer mental and physical consequences. Ozeki plays with the connectedness of geographical space, and uses postmodern devices to show global economic and social uncertainty; Mariko Tamaki uses the detached and ironic first-person point of view of a twenty-year old to critique our obsession with ownership and money. In Skim, verbal and visual techniques convey Skim's outsider status, her broken family, difficulties with her peers, and what Sara Ahmed calls the "happiness commandment."

Keywords:   Japanese American, precarity, graphic novel, bullying, depression, Sarah Ahmed, teens, queer, happiness, tattoos, Mariko Tamaki, Ruth Ozeki

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