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Figuring Korean Futures: Children’s Literature in Modern Korea

By Dafna Zur Dafna Zur is Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures at Stanford University and author of Figuring Korean Futures: Children’s Literature in Modern Korea, just published by Stanford University Press. In the fall of 2011 I was a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia and had taken a position at Keimyung University in the Department of Korean Literature. Besides my teaching job, which gave me an opportunity to experience life in Korean academia, I found myself in the rather unenviable position of hakpumo, the parent of a school-age child. My older son was then seven and enrolled in the second semester of first grade. He was thrown into the proverbial “deep end” of elementary school, in which no accommodations were made for speakers of Korean as a second language. I watched him struggle to keep up with sentence dictations and word problems in math, when one of his homework materials caught my eye. It consisted of a short poem, followed by multiple ...

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The Politics of Compassion: An Interview with Bin Xu

After a devastating earthquake hit China’s southwestern Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008, thousands of volunteers left their homes in other parts of the country and traveled to Sichuan to help victims of the quake. This outpouring of assistance surprised many Chinese, who for years had lamented about a perceived moral vacuum and lack of compassion in their society. As Emory University sociologist Bin Xu explains in his new book, The Politics of Compassion: The Sichuan Earthquake and Civic Engagement in China (Stanford University Press), the 2008 earthquake threw a spotlight on civic engagement in the country, bringing non-governmental organizations and social networks that had previously been little-known onto the national stage. Xu has spent years investigating the dimensions of this civic engagement, first joining the volunteers as a participant-observer and subsequently conducting interviews with those who stepped forward to assist in Sichuan’s recovery from the earthquake. In The Politi ...

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A Mother’s Memories Inspire a Daughter’s Journey

By Kathleen Burkinshaw The journey that led me to write The Last Cherry Blossom, a book for middle-grade readers about the atomic bombing of Japan, began about eight years ago with one question. My daughter was in 7th grade at the time, and something that happened in her history class had upset her. They would be covering the end of World War II that week; after class, she overheard some kids talking about how they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud picture.” She asked if I would speak to her class about the people under the mushroom cloud that day—people like her Grandma. I called my mother and asked if it was okay to tell others about her experience in Hiroshima. My mom was a very private person and never spoke about August 6th in public. When I was a young child, she told me she came from Tokyo. Only after I questioned her about the nightmares she had at the beginning of every August did she confide that she had actually been born in Hiroshima. She told me how she lost ...

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“Small Volumes with a Big Message”: Introducing Asia Shorts

By Bill Tsutsui Chair, AAS Editorial Board Like many faculty members these days, I am prone to fault college students (not to mention most of my fellow Americans) for their ever-shorter attention spans. 140 characters is, after all, not long enough for a decent subordinate clause, many cherished phrases of academic jargon, or some lengthy place names in Thailand. And yet, when I am completely honest with myself, I have to admit that I too become fidgety during 50-minute lectures, have been known to criticize two-hour movies as “just endless,” and tend to shy away from big, thick volumes on bookstore shelves. In our information-saturated lives, there is much to appreciate in the expression of complex ideas in forms that are focused, clear, and concise. Brevity need not mean superficiality, or suggest any lacking of ambition or effort. As the philosopher Blaise Pascal once famously stated, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” In recent years, the aca ...

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AAS Member Spotlight: Kathleen Burkinshaw

Kathleen Burkinshaw Author of the middle-grades historical fiction book, The Last Cherry Blossom Your discipline and country (or countries) of interest: Historical fiction; Japan How long have you been a member of AAS? Two months. Why did you join AAS and why would you recommend AAS to your colleagues? I want to be a part of a community that values Asian history and culture that I can learn from and contribute to. I visit with many schools to discuss my mother’s Hiroshima experience and The Last Cherry Blossom, and will be sure to mention the valuable information at #AsiaNow. How did you first become involved in the field of Asian Studies? I first became involved when my daughter was in 7th grade. Her class was studying World War II and she overheard some kids saying they couldn’t wait to see the “cool mushroom cloud” pictures. This deeply upset her and she asked me to visit her class and talk about the people under those now famous mushroom clouds—people like her gr ...

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