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Images of Chinese people, Chinese-Americans, and Chinese culture in children's and adolescents' fiction (1980-1997)

Li Liu, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Since the United States has become an ethnically and culturally diverse country and has become a microcosm of the world, multicultural children's literature has attracted more and more attention and raised questions about its quality. The purpose of this study was to determine what images of Chinese people, Chinese-Americans, and Chinese culture were attributed in children's and adolescents' fiction. The study was achieved by examining 57 fictional books written by Chinese-American authors and other-American authors for readers from kindergarten through junior high school published in the United States from 1980 to 1997. This study was an example of the descriptive method of research using content analysis, a technique for evaluating the descriptions and information from the selected books in a systematic and objective manner, to achieve "systematic examination" by analyzing the information identified in the books under the study. The content of the books was analyzed to discover the ways Chinese people were portrayed and the ways Chinese cultures were represented, and to examine whether or not they were stereotyped. This study used two instruments, including a total of thirteen categories, to examine the images and representations from different perspectives. The results of the study indicated that the images of Chinese people were attributed both realistically and in a stereotypic manner, and the representations of Chinese culture in many books were inaccurate and unauthentic. It was also found that most of the inaccurate information and misrepresentations were made by non-Chinese-American authors and illustrators, though a few inaccurate pieces of information were made by Chinese-American authors and illustrators. The present study may be helpful to authors, illustrators, book reviewers, curriculum specialists, and others working with written materials about China, Chinese and Chinese-Americans, and also to scholars of children's literature who wish to analyze other cultures well. Directed toward the elimination of the stereotypes of Chinese and Chinese-Americans in Children's and adolescents' literature, the study promotes the realization of intercultural understanding, a necessary concomitant to the further development of cultural pluralism in this country.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Language arts|Elementary education|Literature

Recommended Citation

Liu, Li, "Images of Chinese people, Chinese-Americans, and Chinese culture in children's and adolescents' fiction (1980-1997)" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841891.