Fantasy island: oceanic imaginings in Paul Yoon’s Once the Shore
John R. EPERJESI
ABSTRACT Paul Yoon’s short story collection, Once the Shore, recently won the fiction award at the 13th Asian American Literary Awards sponsored by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Once the Shore is set on a fictional Solla Island, the inspiration for which came from time Yoon spent on the real Jeju Island. Solla is an abstract or heterotopic space through which Yoon describes specific moments in the lives of local islanders as they are shaped both directly and indirectly by the brutal histories of colonialism and the cold war, past and present, in the region. Yoon imagines Oceania from below, from the perspective of farmers, divers, fishermen, orphans, renegades, and castaways who form strange friendships across barriers of age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. While Once the Shore can be read in relation to several overlapping literary traditions – Asian American, Korean, Pacific Islander – I situate the collection at the intersection of Epeli Hau’ofa’s utopic vision of Oceania and the Islands of 20, an emergent organization based out of the World Peace Program at Cheju National University that aims to move the G 20 toward recognition of the uneven and disastrous effects of globalization, climate change, and militarism on small islands.
KEYWORDS: colonialism, imperialism, Cold War, local, Oceania, Pacific Rim, Heterotopia
John R. Eperjesi is an Assistant Professor of English at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. He received his Ph.D in the Literary and Cultural Theory program at Carnegie Mellon University, and is the author of The Imperialist Imaginary: Visions of Asia and the Pacific in American Culture (University Press of New England, 2005). He has published articles and book reviews in boundary 2, Asian Studies Review, Minnesota Review, The Contemporary Pacific, and Pacific Historical Review.