• 276 pages
  • 5.25 x 8.5
  • 5 tables
  • Price: $31.95
  • EAN: 9781439920527
  • Publication: Jul 2021
  • Price: $104.50
  • EAN: 9781439920510
  • Publication: Jul 2021
  • Price: $31.95
  • EAN: 9781439920534
  • Publication: Jul 2021

Passing for Perfect

College Impostors and Other Model Minorities

erin Khuê Ninh

In her engaging study, Passing for Perfect, erin Khuê Ninh considers the factors that drove college imposters such as Azia Kim—who pretended to be a Stanford freshman—and Jennifer Pan—who hired a hitman to kill her parents before they found out she had never received her high school diploma—to extreme lengths to appear successful. Why would someone make such an illogical choice? And how do they stage these lies so convincingly, and for so long?

These outlier examples prompt Ninh to address the larger issue of the pressures and difficulties of striving to be model minority, where failure is too ruinous to admit. Passing for Perfect insists that being a “model minority” is not a “myth,” but coded into one’s programming as an identity—a set of convictions and aspirations, regardless of present socioeconomic status or future attainability—and that the true cost of turning children into high-achieving professionals may be higher than anyone can bear.

Ninh’s book codifies for readers the difference between imposters who are con artists or shysters and those who don’t know how to stop passing for perfect.


“As an Asian American daughter of immigrants, reading Passing for Perfect , I felt my life understood. erin Khuê Ninh has explained our plight—the mad scramble for refuge, the guilt over our parents’ sacrifices, and our trust that education will save us. This book will give us strength against the attackers who blame us for what’s wrong with America. We shall overcome violence with knowledge.”
Maxine Hong Kingston

“Passing for Perfect is lively, timely, and smart. It engages intriguing case studies of Asian Americans who maintained the charade of being admitted to elite colleges in order to expose the tolls surrounding racial stereotyping. Ninh conveys the significance of these impersonations without giving in to their salacious details. Rather, she seeks systemic explanations for individual behaviors while providing keen insights into the ways that racialization works as a form of psychic conditioning.
Leslie Bow, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of English and Asian American Studies and Draheim Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

In Passing for Perfect, Ninh has written an important and provocative book about Asian American college imposters that implicates the aspirational nature of the model minority identity within some Asian American communities. Writing against scholars who argue that the model minority is a myth, Ninh asserts, ‘That which is partially true is not a myth (problematic or inconvenient, yes; uncalibrated or misleading, quite possibly; roundly deniable, no).’ This book should be read by scholars in ethnic studies and education, Asian American parents, and Asian Americans who have struggled to achieve model minority success.
Stacey J. Lee, Frederick Erickson Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Asian American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Ninh examines the pressures of perfection and addresses the more significant issue of the 'model minority' as an identity. This engaging text offers readers a passing view of life for Asian Americans and provides a glimpse into why this phenomenon occurs.... Passing for Perfect tells a remarkable story full of cultural complexities that examines case studies and concludes with introspection.... Summing Up: Recommended."

"In a publishing environment where scholars are encouraged to imagine an audience beyond their field of specialization, Ninh’s conceit of a specifically Asian American reader challenges the conventions of the scholarly monograph. Her study seeks neither to spurn a stereotype nor to offer a truer alternative but to solicit a readerly reckoning. Instead of assuming a solidarity predicated on the mutual rejection of the model minority’s inauthenticity and complicity, Ninh binds scholar and reader through a mutual recognition of the emotional yearnings, social expectations, and family dynamics that motivate seemingly preposterous acts of passing."
American Literary History

About the Author(s)

erin Khuê Ninh is an Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Ingratitude: The Debt-Bound Daughter in Asian American Literature, which won the Literary Studies Book Award from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2013.

In the Series

Asian American History and Culture

Founded by Sucheng Chan in 1991, the Asian American History and Culture series has sponsored innovative scholarship that has redefined, expanded, and advanced the field of Asian American studies while strengthening its links to related areas of scholarly inquiry and engaged critique. Like the field from which it emerged, the series remains rooted in the social sciences and humanities, encompassing multiple regions, formations, communities, and identities. Extending the vision of founding editor Sucheng Chan and emeriti editor Michael Omi, David Palumbo-Liu, K. Scott Wong, Linda Trinh Võ, and Shelley Lee, series editors Cathy Schlund-Vials and Rick Bonus continue to develop a foundational collection that embodies a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to Asian American studies.

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