By Thomas Ni
Towards an Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics: An Intersectional Anthology. Gale Yee. Eugene, OR, Cascade Books: 2021. $27.00.
Towards an Asian American Biblical Hermeneutics: An Intersectional Anthology by Gale Yee contains ground-breaking essays on reading the biblical texts through the lens of an Asian American. Based on the notion of about us, by us, for us and near us, the author strives to develop an Asian American hermeneutics of the Bible. Yee’s theorizing through an intersectional perspective of gender, race, and social class is truly inspiring. From now on, no one can claim, as the author does, that there are no models to follow in reading the biblical texts through an Asian American lens.
In this anthology, the multi-layered interpretive struggles of a female Chinese American biblical scholar from the lower social class are displayed in a clearly laid out methodology, as well as in the readings of biblical texts of the books of Ruth, 1 Kings, Isaiah and Ezekiel. Yee brings an Asian perspective to the biblical texts, addressing experiences such as the stereotype of Asian as “model minority” and “perpetual foreigner” in Ruth, Japanese internment in the story of the illegitimate seizure of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21, and Chinese woman warrior FA Mulan in the person of Jael, Sistera’s assassin in the Book of Judges 4-5. As the author retrospects her exegetical journey, she discovers her self-identity in her interpretation of the texts, namely her feminist self, Asian American self, and class-based self: Demonstrating that an Asian reading of the biblical texts does not come naturally to an Asian American, it parallels a deep conscious self-reflection.
This book is inspiring for those interested in exploring biblical texts through an Asian American lens. It is helpful to those who engage in ministry among Asian people since it provides intersectional perspectives to interpret the Bible more relevantly to their culture and situation. For instance, the welcome of immigrants and refugees and the inclusiveness of sexual minorities. It is also fascinating for non-Asians who want to understand the complicated situation of Asian Americans searching for their Asian self-identities within biblical texts. Something the author has masterfully demonstrated in her journey of “becoming” an Asian American biblical scholar.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Ni is the Executive Director of the Li Tim-Oi Center in San Gabriel, CA.