CAREER: Journalist and editor. Worked with Associated Press in Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, and New York, NY; Agence France-Presse (AFP), Asian regional correspondent in Hong Kong, Europe/Africa desk editor, Paris, France, Cambodia bureau chief in Phnom Penh, 1991–94; Business Week, New York, NY, Asia editor for eight years.
MEMBER: Council on Foreign Relations, Asia Society, Japan Society, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Overseas Press Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: U.S.-Japan Foundation media fellow in Japan; Knight International Press fellow in China; Human Rights Press Award, for coverage of Cambodian land mine victims; shared in six awards for coverage of Asian financial crisis.
The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient (nonfiction), Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including New Yorker, New Republic, New York Times, Business Week, and Far Eastern Economic Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Sheridan Prasso analyzes the prevalent stereotypes about Asia and Asians, and challenges Westerners to take a fresh view of the region and its people in her book The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient. She examines the origins of common stereotypes, which include the submissive, erotic Asian housewife, the cold and heartless "Dragon Lady" who ruthlessly manipulates people for power, and the ineffectual, effeminate Asian man. In general, the West has depicted the East as something to be dominated. In Prasso's view, many of these stereotypes originated in ancient times and continue to be seen, in various subtle and insidious ways, in modern culture. She believes they have an impact on Asian Americans in business dealings and in the workplace generally; on cross-cultural relationships, and on foreign policy and foreign relations between East and West. She cites the fact that the long-running, critically acclaimed television series M∗A∗S∗H∗, which was set in Korea, did not have a recurring Asian character until its final season, and the spectacle of blonde actress Uma Thurman in the movie Kill Bill easily defeating multiple Asian male attackers in martial-arts battles as two examples of the West's continuing problems with seeing and representing the East in a realistic manner. She stated in an interview with Asia Source that "we can never really understand Asian countries … until we rid ourselves of 'Asian Mystique,' or at least see it for what it is—the elephant in the living room that affects in some way nearly every interaction between East and West."
The author not only outlines existing stereotypes; she seeks to replace them with realistic pictures of modern life in Asia. She profiles women in Asia's business districts, middle-class neighborhoods, college campuses, and many other walks of life. Prasso stated that she felt her status as a woman and a non-Asian helped her in researching and writing her book. As she told the interviewer for Asia Source, "A man could not have written this book. Lots of Western men in the past have written about Asia extolling its beauties and glorifying its exoticism. As a woman, I offer a fresh, more real perspective on Asia. Because I am female, women invited me into their homes and shared their lives with me. They may not have been able to speak as openly and in the same ways with a man due to cultural mores. Plus, being a Westerner means that I can observe situations and relationships in a more objective way." Renee Graham, a reviewer for the Boston Globe, found The Asian Mystique to be "a persuasive, timely book. Unwavering and pointed, Prasso makes clear the destructive nature of stereotypes about Asia and the social, cultural, and political ramifications of allowing them to fester unchallenged."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Asian Review of Books, July 27, 2005, Todd Shimoda, review of The Asian Mystique: Dragon Ladies, Geisha Girls, and Our Fantasies of the Exotic Orient.
Audrey, July, 2005, Sheridan Prasso, "A New Perspective on the Asian Mystique."
Bookwatch, July, 2005, review of The Asian Mystique.
Boston Globe, June 6, 2005, Renee Graham, review of The Asian Mystique.
Chief Executive, May, 2005, interview with Sheridan Prasso, p. 55.
Japan Times, September 25, 2005, Stephen Mansfield, review of The Asian Mystique.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2005, review of The Asian Mystique, p. 280.
Library Journal, May 1, 2005, Cynthia Harrison, review of The Asian Mystique, p. 106.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 15, 2005, Frances Somers, "American Journalist Explores Global Stereotypes about Asian Women."
Asia Source, http://www.asiasource.org/ (June 13, 2005), Cindy Yoon, interview with Sheridan Prasso.
Sheridan Prasso Home Page, http://www.sheridanprasso.com (October 26, 2005).