He uses the metaphor of the family picture album, full of old pictures of family members that evoke both good and bad memories. He recognizes that this metaphor can only go so far, since instead of using visual pictures of his subjects and their families, he uses oral accounts taken from a variety of oral sources. Okihiro recognizes that he has mixed my metaphors (95), as he puts it. Instead of being an inferior way to present history as he intimidates, however, it is one of the best way to recount the history of Asian Americans. It is the use of oral history and of autobiography, a common way that the histories of people of color and women have been presented throughout history. Oral history and autobiography have traditionally been used to recount the histories of marginalized and oppressed peoples because they have not been able to access more traditional history. The slave narrative, for example, is one of the earliest forms of American autobiography. As African American scholar Joanne M. Braxton (1986) states, the purpose of the slave narrative was not only to present the oral histories of slaves in America, but as a tool for abolitionists seeking to end slavery. In many cases, the autobiographies of former slaves were accompanied by prefaces written by white abolitionists to provide them with credibility to white readers. Modern African American writers like Maya Angelou and Richard Wright continued the tradition of using autobiography to present their histories. Other minority groups in America have used autobiography and oral histories for similar purposes. This is certainly true of the presentation of the history of Asian Americans. Another common way to present the history of Asian Americans and other minority groups has been to present them in fictionalized forms. This has been done effectively by Milton Mirayama (1998) in his critically acclaimed, beautifully written, and poignant novel, All I Asking for is My Body. Murayama wrote the first draft of the novel while a student at Columbia University. It was first published as a short story entitled I’ll Crack Your Head Kotsun and published in the Arizona Quarterly in 1959. The story became the first chapter of All I Asking for is My Body and was published in 1968, in a Hawaiian anthology. It was not well received at first, but received critical acclaim and became a cult classic when the University of Hawaii published it in 1988 (Kim, 2005). All I Asking for is My Body reads like a classic autobiography. The novel, including the title, is written in modified pidgin, but is readable by non-pidgin speakers. Murayama seems to understand that he is writing more than just a novel, and that he is presenting Japanese culture and what life was like for Japanese immigrants in Hawaii in the years just prior to and during World War II. Consequently, he spends a great deal of time explaining his language use.
Comparison Asian American History