Passing for Perfect: A Book Talk with erin Khuê Ninh and Andrew Way Leong

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Passing for Perfect: A Book Talk with erin Khuê Ninh and Andrew Way Leong

In 2007, Azia Kim pretended to be a Stanford freshman and even lived in the school's dormitory for several months.

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UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Library 30 Stephens Hall Berkeley, CA 94720-2360

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  • 1 hour
  • Mobile eTicket

Please join us at the Ethnic Studies Library for a special talk with scholar erin Khuê Ninh and Andrew Way Leong. Ninh will speak on her recent book Passing for Perfect: College Imposters and Other Model Minorities. Professor Ninh diagnoses the ways that Asian Americans are racialized by a model minority formation that demands of its young people a kind of exemplarity that is as toxic and fatal as it promises social reward. And she asks how we might understand those who can’t live up to this expectation, and what this means for the fraught terms of Asian American social life in contemporary society today.

The event will be live-streamed on UC Berkeley's Ethnic Studies Library's Facebook page and masks are strongly recommend for the health of our community

In 2007, Azia Kim pretended to be a Stanford freshman and even lived in the school's dormitory for several months. In 2010, Jennifer Pan hired a hitman to kill her parents after they found out she had been deceiving them about her educational successes. Why would someone make such an illogical choice? And how do they stage such convincing lies for so long?

erin Khuê Ninh considers what drives people to such extreme lengths in her book, Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities. While situations like faking college acceptance or murdering one's parents are outlier examples, they reveal the cost of the extreme pressure to achieve excellence. Ninh insists that being a “model minority” is not a myth; it's a set of convictions and aspirations woven into identities, particularly those of certain groups of Asian Americans, from an early age. But turning children into high-achieving professionals can come at a high price: What happens when failure becomes too difficult to admit?

Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities is available for PURCHASE online at our website www.AsiaBookCenter.com, or by clicking here!

For questions about directions, parking, and accessibility information, use this link: https://www.tinyurl.com/ethnicstudieslibrary

ABOUT THE BOOK:

In her engaging study, Passing for Perfect,erin Khuê Ninh considers the factors that drove college imposters such as Azia Kim—who pretended to be a Stanford freshman—and Jennifer Pan—who hired a hitman to kill her parents before they found out she had never received her high school diploma—to extreme lengths to appear successful. Why would someone make such an illogical choice? And how do they stage these lies so convincingly, and for so long?

These outlier examples prompt Ninh to address the larger issue of the pressures and difficulties of striving to be model minority, where failure is too ruinous to admit. Passing for Perfect insists that being a “model minority” is not a “myth,” but coded into one’s programming as an identity—a set of convictions and aspirations, regardless of present socioeconomic status or future attainability—and that the true cost of turning children into high-achieving professionals may be higher than anyone can bear.

Ninh’s book codifies for readers the difference between imposters who are con artists or shysters and those who don’t know how to stop passing for perfect.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

erin Khuê Ninh is an Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature, which won the Literary Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2013.

ABOUT THE MODERATOR:

Andrew Way Leong is assistant professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. His research focuses on the literature of Japanese diasporas in the Americas as well as queer and critical theoretical approaches to the study of literary genre, gendered embodiment, and generational time. He is the translator of Lament in the Night (Kaya Press 2012), a collection of two novels by Nagahara Shōson, an author who wrote for a Japanese reading public in Los Angeles during the 1920s. This translation received an Association for Asian American Studies Outstanding Book Award in 2014. Leong is also the 2018 recipient of the Association for Asian American Studies’ Early Career Achievement Award. His recent publications have appeared in The New Whitman Studies, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Asian American Literature and Culture, Comparative Literature Studies, Verge: Studies in Global Asias, and Post-45: Contemporaries.