Defying Definition

Even though she’s one of my least favorite characters inĀ Tropic of Orange, I find Emi to be one of the most entertaining. As a Japanese American, she appears to have fully assimilated herself into American culture, and seems to care less about being of Asian descent. She doesn’t seem to outright hate her race, but it looks like she makes a great effort to make sure that it doesn’t define her.

In the book in Chapter 17 on page 111, Gabriel mentions Emi while trying to work out his previous interview with Manzanar in his mind. He says, “I didn’t make the Asian connection until I got Emi’s habitual afternoon call; but then why should I connect Emi to Asian-ness?” Reflecting on a flashback conversation that Emi had with her mother in Chapter 3, I also thought it was humorous to consider Emi to be Asian at all. She hardly fits into the Asian stereotype, or any other racial stereotype. I see Emi just as…a person. A unique individual who happens to be a Japanese American. Later on in the same paragraph on page 111, Gabriel says, “Maybe Emi never let me forget I was Chicano, but it was easy to lose track of Emi. She defied definition.” I really like that about Emi, and I think Gabriel does too.

This may be a bit of a stretch, but on a slightly related note, Emi reminds me a little of the character Veronica Fisher on the TV show, Shameless. I see a similarity between the two because they don’t let their race define them. Veronica, who is called “V” by her close friends and family, may give off the typical persona that may be associated with a female black American, but you hardly see her around any others of her race besides her mother and maybe the occasional other black residents of the neighborhood. She actually prefers the company of white people over blacks, because she believes them to be more “civil” and less “ghetto”. If you ever watch the TV show, you’ll see that this binary is invalid. (haha)

I searched YouTube for a funny video clip of Veronica talking about her opinion of black Americans, but I couldn’t find one. Instead, I’ve attached one of a short scene that at least gives you a glance at her character.

One Response to Defying Definition

  1. Hannah Hartley February 10, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    I too find Emi incredibly interesting, while also fairly unlikable. Her constant categorization of things and people annoys me, as does her materialism and cynical nature. However, she is, as you say, just a person, one who refuses to be defined by race. She defies the very categorization through which she filters the world, and in doing so transcends these categories altogether. In addition, she seems rather shallow, with her constructed, media-saturated personality, but her stance on globalization resonates with me, as does her condemnation of consumerism. Emi is one of the characters I find most entertaining, which I did not anticipate upon first reading her chapter.

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