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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor
The Heath Anthology Newsletter
Fall 1999

In Remembrance: Amy Ling



Amy Ling, our friend, colleague, and an editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature, died on August 21 in Madison, Wisconsin, after a long battle with cancer.

Amy was one of the real pioneers in the movement to reconstruct the literary canon and thus our understanding of what was socially and culturally significant in this country. She was among the very first scholars to focus study and teaching on the writing of Asian-Americans, beginning at a time when few in our profession recognized that work as indispensable to the full picture of life and letters in the United States. Indeed, for a time, Amy found it impossible to get a regular job because the field she had chosen was viewed as "marginal!"

Her initial concentration as a critic was on the work of Winnifred and Edith Eaton, two nineteenth century authors who were the first of Chinese ancestry to publish fiction in the U.S. Research into the Eaton sisters' writings and into the family's history launched Amy into the world of scholarship. She brought to this field not only a gentle yet steadfast determination, but also the insights of a poet and painter, beautifully illustrated in her chapbook, Chinamerica Reflections.

In time she would write about many Asian-American authors, mainly women like Chuang Hua, Maxine Hong Kingston, Diana Chang, Sui Sin Far, and Han Suyin, among others. Her work developed into a number of books, including Between Worlds: Women Writers of Chinese Ancestry; Reading the Literatures of Asian America (co-edited with Shirley Geok-lin Lim); Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land (co-edited with Wesley Brown); Visions of America: Personal Narratives from the Promised Land (co-edited with Wesley Brown); and Mrs. Spring Fragrance and Other Collected Writings of Sui Sin Far (co-edited with Annette White-Parks). She had recently completed Yellow Light: The Flowering of Asian American Arts, a set of interviews with Asian-American writers, filmmakers, performance artists, and musicians. She was working on a cultural study of Madame Butterfly at the time of her death. She had taught at Queens, Rutgers, City College of New York, Georgetown, Harvard, and Trinity, before becoming director of Asian-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But no list of articles and books, no cv, can capture the spirit Amy brought to her work and to her friendships. A few years ago some of us traveled with her to Russia to participate in a conference at the A. M. Gorky Institute of World Literature. Exploring the streets and subways of Moscow, finding presents in out-of-the-way shops, checking out revolutionary sites and Romanov palaces in St. Petersburg, Amy's energy and irony kept us fresh. She is remembered fondly and now with great sadness by her Moscow colleagues. She brought those virtues of vivacity, determination, and wit to the editorial board of the Heath Anthology. Amy establishing herself from the outset as a collaborator and comrade on whom we could absolutely depend. We will deeply miss her. "The memory is the entire."

 


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