Longing and Belonging, Exile and Home in Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s <i>Joss and Gold</i>


  • Chingyen Yang Mayer, Siena College, USA


In Abdul R. JanMohammed’s seminal work “Worldliness-Without-World, Homelessness-as-Home: Toward a Definition of the Specular Border Intellectual,†he poignantly explores the themes of home, exile and homelessness through an analysis of Edward Said’s and Richard Wright’s works. He explains that both the syncretic intellectual and the specular border intellectual are posited between at least two different cultures. 

    "The syncretic intellectual, more 'at home' in both cultures than his or her specular counterpart, is able to combine  elements of the two cultures in order to articulate new syncretic forms and experiences….

    By contrast, the specular border intellectual, while perhaps equally familiar with two cultures, finds himself or herself unable or unwilling to be at home in these societies. Caught between several cultures or groups, none of which are deemed sufficiently enabling or productive, the specular intellectual subjects the cultures to analytic scrutiny rather than combining them; he or she utilizes his or her interstitial cultural space as a vantage point from which to define, implicitly or explicitly, other, utopian possibilities of group formation. (97)"

Set against the backdrop of the 1969 race riots in Malaysia, the multifaceted 1980s United States and the “second-most globalized country in the world†(Holden 2) Singapore, Shirley Lim’s first novel Joss and Gold traces the female protagonist Li An’s trajectory to find a sense of home and belonging in multivalent Malaysia and Singapore. Utilizing JanMohamed’s theory of the syncretic and specular intellectual, this paper intends to examine the themes of longing and belonging, exile and home in Shirley Lim’s Joss and Gold, and focuses on Li An’s journey from an emotionally homeless orphan, a specular, to a syncretic intellectual.


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Author Biography

Chingyen Yang Mayer, Siena College, USA

Chingyen Yang Mayer is Associate Professor of English at Siena College in Loudonville, New York, USA. She teaches American Literature, Asian American Literature, Post-Colonial Literature, Multi-Cultural Literature and Globalisation Studies. Her research interests include the examination of the Self, Ethnic and Cultural Identities, Masculinity and Femininity, Transnational Migration, and Home and Exile in multi-ethnic American literature. She has presented many papers at national and international professional conferences, and has published book chapters and journal articles in both English and Chinese.




How to Cite

Mayer, Siena College, USA, C. Y. (2014). Longing and Belonging, Exile and Home in Shirley Geok-lin Lim’s &lt;i&gt;Joss and Gold&lt;/i&gt;. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 8(1), 162–172. Retrieved from https://journals.iium.edu.my/asiatic/index.php/ajell/article/view/460



Articles on Shirley Geok-lin Lim