In “When White Poets Pretend to Be Asian” by Hua Hsu and “What a Fraternity Hazi

In “When White Poets Pretend to Be Asian” by Hua Hsu and “What a Fraternity Hazing Death Revealed About the Painful Search for an Asian-American Identity” by Jay Caspian Kang, both authors explore assumptions about Asian-American identity and how our multicultural country has embraced/isolated its Asian-American citizens. Hsu’s essay centers on literary hoaxes. Kang’s essay targets a tragic hazing case. A few times, Hsu uses the simile of a “game” to explain what he is describing: “The only limitation for such an artist, really, is the extent to which it can all be explained away as an avant-garde game if things get too weird.” And “As though it [Hudson’s hoax] were all just a game, meant to be gamed.” Kang refers to “game” once, as far as I can see: “‘We’d play League of Legends’ – a multiplayer computer game – ‘and play handball and eat,’ Yuan said, describing a typical weekend.” Obviously, Kang’s use of “game” is literal . . . but Hsu’s underlying analogy of a game also exists in Kang’s essay (regardless of explicit references to “game”). Although “game” can convey a sense of unreality or superficiality, I do not intend you to see it in just that way with this question. Think of the phrase “the game of life.” It often carries a serious sense.
In this final essay for the term, I’d like you to think of the game concept: a competition (battle?) where symbolic rules exist, skill is necessary (developed by practice?), luck has a part, roles are played, prizes as well as “winners” and “losers” are named, cheating happens, etc. Not to sound unsympathetic or too callous about the tragedy of Michael Deng, but a case can be made that he partook in a hazing game where things, horribly, got “too weird.” Consider how the construction of Asian-American identity has been partly put into the framework of a symbolic game. Its award is not entirely clear (mainstream assimilation/cultural solidarity/American Dream success?), but both readings show institutions (publication industry, media, government, university, fraternity, etc.) trying to wrestle with the ‘right rules’ for this game based upon empathy, historical incidents, laws, victims, etc. Do you believe institutions are largely (as Hsu says about Alexie) doing “the right thing,” being misguided, or some third option (which you’ll need to explain/document) when it comes to being referees — or coaches — as Asian-Americans play this game of validating their identity? (You might consider what you see as the game’s goal by choosing a couple of key institutions and how they encourage/discourage team, or individual, participation.)

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