American Dream in African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American Drama: August Wilson, Frank Chin, and Luis Valdez

Author: Jiang, Tsui-fen
This study examines the significance of the American dream in American ethnic drama. In August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, Frank Chin’s The Chickencoop Chinaman, and Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit, the African American, Chinese American, and Hispanic American playwrights rearticulate the definition of the American dream for American minority peoples—to rectify their internalized distorted self-image, to implant self-esteem, and to earn the due respect from whites and others. These plays also call for a coalition or solidarity within and among minority groups to struggle against socio-economical exploitation and racial discrimination.


“The plays under discussion . . . [are] all canonical works in the tradition of American minority drama. By employing various modern theories to make sense of these plays, Jiang’s study shows, in an intelligent manner, how literature and politics together disclose the limits of the American dream. For Jiang, these plays are to be read as national allegories because they represent general historical experiences of American minority peoples.”
Prof. Yu-cheng Lee, Academia Sinica

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Yu-cheng Lee
I. Introduction
1. The American Dream for White Americans
2. The American Dream for Non-Whites
3. Literature Review and the New Look
4. The Representatives of African American, Asian (Chinese) American, and Hispanic (Chicano) American Dramas
II. The American Dream for African America in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson
1. Introduction
2. The Misconceived Version of Whites’ Material Dream
Major Characters’ Dreams
Other Minor Characters’ Dreams
3. The American Dream to Be Fulfilled by African Americans
The Wrong Attitude towards the Past
The Right Attitude
4. The Solidarity
5. Conclusion
III. The American Dream for Chinese America in Frank Chin’s The Chickencoop Chinaman
1. Introduction
2. The American Nightmare Manifested in The Chickencoop Chinaman
The Past: Humiliation and Self-loathing
The Present: Escape and Substitution
3. The Fulfilling of the American Dream Promised Recognition and Respect
4. The Interethnic Solidarity
5. Conclusion
IV. The American Dream for Chicano America in Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit
1. Introduction
About Chicano or Chicana
The Distorted Subjectivity
Luis Valdez
The Historical Sleepy Lagoon Murder Case, the Zoot Suit Riots, and the Play
2. Chicanos’ American Nightmare: White Distortion
The Distortion Manipulated by the Press
The Distortion of the Law Enforcers
3. The Way to the American Dream: A New Chicano Identity
The Indigenous Identity—El Pachuco
The Active Identity
The Dutiful Identity
4. The Coalition
5. Conclusion
V. Conclusion