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August 27, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

UNDER WESTERN EYES: Personal Essay From Asian America edited by Garrett Hongo (Anchor: $14.95; 334 pp., illustrated, paperback original). In his introduction, poet Garrett Hongo asserts, ". . . Citizens who emerge from marginalized histories, from complicated and fractured loyalties, need a means to probe the inner life, the ideological conflicts, and the repressed communal histories in order to create identity." In these personal essays, many of the authors examine the problem of intergenerational communication--a recurring theme in Asian American fiction. Amy Tan explains the influence of her mother's fractured but effective English on her writing. National Public Radio commentator Nguyen Qui Duc learns that life in America has made him a stranger in his native Vietnam. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston recalls how long-repressed memories led her to write "Farewell to Manzanar" (Bantam, 1983) with her husband, James. In contrast to these moving reflections, Geeta Kothari seems petty in her protracted complaint about being asked, "Where are you from?"

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