Preoccupations of Some Asian Australian Women’s Fiction at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century

Carole Ferrier


This paper offers a look back over the rise of the visibility, and the rise as a category, of Asian Australian fiction from the beginning of the 1990s, and especially in the twenty-first century, and some of the main questions that have been asked of it by its producers, and its readers, critics, commentators and the awarders of prizes. It focuses upon women writers. The trope of “border crossings”—both actual and in the mind, was central in the late-twentieth century to much feminist, Marxist, postcolonial and race-cognisant cultural commentary and critique, and the concepts of hybridity, diaspora, whiteness, the exotic, postcolonising and (gendered) cultural identities were examined and deployed. In the “paranoid nation” of the twenty-first century, there is a new orientation on the part of governments towards ideas of—if not quite an imminent Yellow Peril—a “fortress Australia,” that turns back to where they came from all boats that are not cruise liners, containerships or warships (of allies). In the sphere of cultural critique, notions of a post-multiculturality that smugly declares that anything resembling identity politics is “so twentieth-century,” are challenged by a rising creative output in Australia of diverse literary representations of and by people with Asian connections and backgrounds. The paper discusses aspects of some works by many of the most prominent of these writers. In its mediation, through similar-but-different travelling women’s eyes, of the past and present histories of different national contexts, Asian Australian fictional writing is a significant and challenging component of the “national” culture, and is continuing to extend its audiences within, and beyond Australia. 

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