Miriam Michelson's Yellow Journalism and the Multi-Ethnic West

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Abstract

This article introduces turn-of-the-twentieth-century Jewish American writer Miriam Michelson to MELUS readers. Although Michelson has been overlooked by scholars of American literature, we argue that she is an important voice in multi-ethnic women’s writing of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century West. In the essay, we position Michelson alongside Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far), another long neglected woman writer. Like Eaton’s, the recovery of Michelson’s fiction and journalism builds on and complicates our current understanding of American literary history by adding the voice of an underrepresented minority writer. We show that Michelson’s work offers a rich archive for scholars and teachers of women’s writing and cross-ethnic studies. We also demonstrate that Michelson’s fiction is an important resource for scholars of Jewish American literature and culture, who, in focusing on the immigrant experience in the New York ghetto, have largely ignored the Jewish experience on the multi-ethnic Western frontier. This article also serves as an introduction to the accompanying text, “In Chy Fong’s Restaurant,” a chapter from Michelson’s 1905 novel A Yellow Journalist . “In Chy Fong’s Restaurant” features the book’s main character, Rhoda Massey, a white journalist, going under cover--or passing--as a Chinese prostitute in order to report on corruption in Chinatown. Her plan is thwarted when a white missionary, not realizing her disguise, kidnaps Rhoda in an effort to save her soul. As we argue in this essay, “In Chy Fong’s Restaurant” offers a fascinating commentary on cross-racial and gendered power dynamics in turn-of-the-twentieth-century San Francisco.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-207
Number of pages26
JournalMELUS
Volume40
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015