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Eating America: Crisis, Sustenance, Sustainability

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Edited By Justyna Kociatkiewicz, Laura Suchostawska and Dominika Ferens

This volume of essays examines the relationship between eating and crisis. The United States’ long-lasting economic and cultural hegemony raises a number of questions: Has America been – literally and metaphorically – eating, appropriating, exploiting, and molding the world in its own image, or has it been eaten, appropriated, and exploited as a (frequently criticized or disdained) source of ideas, ideology, and knowledge? What is the relation between the current ecological crisis and America’s consumerist economy, with its practices of food production and consumption, and its use of natural resources? What is America’s role in the ongoing crisis of modernity? And, if the crisis continues, where are the sources of sustenance?
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Between Taste and Interest: Reading Asian American Literature in the Age of Food Literacy: Dominika Ferens

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“Food literacy,” as many hip internet sources explain, means understanding the impact of people’s food choices on their health, the environment, and their communities. Along with such notions as “sustainable agriculture,” food literacy is becoming an important political goal for ecologically conscious Americans. But judging by the literature promoted on food literacy websites, some readers treat food literacy as a continuation of their more traditional interest in cookbooks, food autobiographies, and a host of other texts classified as “food writing.” Since its publication in 2004, The Book of Salt by the Vietnamese American author Monique Truong, has won several prestigious awards1 and become a staple on food literacy reading lists. Declared a veritable aesthetic and gourmet feast, The Book of Salt is a fictional first-person narrative of a gay Vietnamese cook employed by the famous American expatriates Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris. This paper juxtaposes The Book of Salt with an earlier Asian American novel, The Coffin Tree,written by Wendy Law-Yone, which happens to explore similar themes: exile, food, appetite, and queer desire. Published by Knopf in 1983, The Coffin Tree initially hovered at the bottom of the New York Times bestseller list but, failing to arouse popular and critical interest,2 it quickly went out of print. Both novels were authored by accomplished stylists who continue to write for a living. Yet on the amazon.com website The Coffin Tree has just 5 amateur reviews while The Book of Salt – 53. To explain the different reception...

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