The Silence that Will Not Speak
Silence is a conceptually complex stance within the narrative of Asian American women’s writing. Since the narrative of struggle sees silence as a barrier that needs to be broken to show resistance against social construction, many Asian American women’s writings adopt a “breaking the silence” framework in their narratives. Silence is associated with content and passivity over hegemonic oppression. Nevertheless, such a framework may risk oversimplifying the agency that silence may actually entail. This article shows how reading silence should also include the understanding that silence is a strategy—what I call “strategic silence”—having its own complexity of agency. In order to articulate this stance, this article explores the semantic frameworks on the meanings of silence. These frameworks are used to analyze silence and trauma in two Asian American women’s writings. More specifically, a close reading investigation of silence and trauma in Grace M. Cho’s narrative “Haunting the Korean Diaspora” (2008) and Joy Kogawa’s “Obasan” (1981) is done to see how different kinds of silence are produced and reproduced within the representational level of the text. The article concludes with discussing how silence can also function as a coping mechanism of transgenerational trauma that breaks the silence and forms a narrative of resistance.