All about Skin features twenty-seven stories by women writers of color whose short fiction has earned them a range of honors, including John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Flannery O'Connor Award, and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. The prose in this multicultural anthology addresses such themes as racial prejudice, media portrayal of beauty, and family relationships and spans genres from the comic and the surreal to startling realism. It demonstrates the power and range of some of the most exciting women writing short fiction today.
The stories are by American writers Aracelis González Asendorf, Jacqueline Bishop, Glendaliz Camacho, Learkana Chong, Jennine Capó Crucet, Ramola D., Patricia Engel, Amina Gautier, Manjula Menon, ZZ Packer, Princess Joy L. Perry, Toni Margarita Plummer, Emily Raboteau, Ivelisse Rodriguez, Metta Sáma, Joshunda Sanders, Renee Simms, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Hope Wabuke, and Ashley Young; Nigerian writers Unoma Azuah and Chinelo Okparanta; and Chinese writer Xu Xi.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Reviewers
All My Relatives challenges the prevailing notion that the work of all American writers reflects a sense of determined individualism. Highlighting works by Frank Chin, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, N. Scott Momaday, Tomas Rivera, Leslie Marmon Silko, Alice Walker, and John Edgar Wideman, Bonnie TuSmith shows that a "first language of community" exists within the cultures of ethnic Americans and is evident in their literary texts. TuSmith suggests that the proper understanding of these texts demands that we dismiss an interpretive frame borrowed from European-American literature.
All My Relatives provides a new way of reading popular works such as The Woman Warrior, The Joy Luck Club, The Color Purple and John Edgar Wideman's Sent for You Yesterday. TuSmith's study will appeal to general readers as well as students and scholars of American culture, ethnic studies, and American literature.
"An original contribution to the field. TuSmith's willingness to step over invisible boundaries and to draw parallels between the cultural contexts of several ethnic groups at once is refreshing and important." --Amy Ling, University of Wisconsin, Madison
"Ambitious and timely . . . a significant work that Americanists will want to read. TuSmith does an excellent job of clarifying the meaning and significance of the term "ethnicity" in relation to American literature."--Ramón Saldívar, Stanford University
". . . TuSmith establishes the importance of traditional (usually oral) modes of expression to ethnic texts that are both relational and accessible . . . . [S]hould become a standard point of reference in the emerging field of comparative American literature."--Choice
Bonnie TuSmith is Assistant Professor of English, Bowling Green State University.
"Christian Moraru is an especially dynamic and brilliant scholar who works at a high level of critical and theoretical sophistication. I've never seen anything quite so exhaustive, so magisterial. Readers of Cosmodernism will think of the Keats line about an astronomer's exhilaration when a new planet swims into his ken."
---David Cowart, University of South Carolina
"Cosmodernism has the potential to become foundational for the study of a whole period. Christian Moraru undertakes here to establish a new basis for thinking about the era of cultural history in which we have found ourselves, in the United States but also around the world, since the end of the Cold War. The strength of Moraru's work lies in its intellectual ambition and scope; its polymathic range and breadth of learning; its confident mastery of a variety of disciplinary discourses; its fresh and thoughtful selection of texts for discussion; the sharpness and insight of its textual analyses; and, animating everything, its fervent commitment to a new and better way of understanding our relationship to others and the world at large."
---Brian McHale, The Ohio State University
A sweeping inquiry into post–Cold War American literature and theory, Cosmodernism argues, cautiously but persuasively, for the rise of a new cultural paradigm against the backdrop of accelerating globalization. Moraru calls this paradigm "cosmodern." He uses the term to account for what seems to be gradually challenging the postmodern over the last twenty-odd years. Not so much a well-structured movement yet, cosmodernism is chiefly a critical construct enabling Moraru to articulate representative literary-theoretical interventions of the past two decades into a reasonably coherent model. The coherence inheres, he shows, in a certain "relational" imaginary, which the critic canvasses by placing a wide range of authors and works in, across, and against the material-conceptual networks of globalization, cosmopolitanism, modernism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, multiculturalism, and other areas of contemporary U.S. intellectual history.
Christian Moraru is Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. His latest books include Rewriting: Postmodern Narrative and Cultural Critique in the Age of Cloning (2001), Memorious Discourse: Reprise and Representation in Postmodernism (2005), and the edited collection Postcommunism, Postmodernism, and the Global Imagination (2009).
Cover art: Earth, oil and acrylic on canvas, 48" × 36", 2008. Painting courtesy of Rebecca Darlington.
This dynamic, open-minded collection of essays responds to the issues raised by Werner Sollors when he argues against the rigidity of cultural pluralism, against the ethnic group-by-group segregation of American literature. Instead he calls for an openly transethinic recognition of cross-cultural interplays and connections among all so-called groups and their canons. In enthusiastic response to such issues, the contributors explore a variety of approaches to pluralism, multiculturalism, group identity, and the problematics of authenticity in literary texts and criticism both historically and currently.
The scholars in this civil, persuasive volume are at home in an international world that crosses linguistic, cultural, and national boundaries. They thus transcend the customary restrictions of earlier, relatively isolationist scholarship to form new, nonpolemical links among cultural identities. This relationship between oral modes of communal identity and writing in tribal cultures joins an examination of Houston Baker's discursive strategies. A consideration of ethnic humor in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Jerre Mangione and a discussion of Jean Toomer's racial persona offer striking contextualizations. Two contributors study discursive constructions of mestizaje in Chicano/a texts, followed by essays on cultural difference in Faulkner's Light in August and Roth's Call It Sleep.Finally, Werner Sollers's essay extends the interactions among all these energetic, nonjudgmental dialogues.
Ethnic literature figures prominently in the current debate on multiculturalism, but even its supporters have had little to say about it as literature, stressing instead its political and sociological context. Thomas J. Ferraro, in this lively and accessible study of modern fiction by Americans of immigrant background, argues that the best of these stories demand—and reward—close reading and attention to questions of genre and literary form.
Ferraro engages the literature of immigration and mobility by asking what motivates its authors and what their work actually accomplishes. He concentrates on five diverse examples of the "up-from-the-ghetto" narrative: Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Anzia Yezierska's Bread Givers, Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, Henry Miller's "The Tailor Shop," and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. To Ferraro the unsuspected value of these works is that they recast the conventions of ethnic representation, illustrating the power of ethnic writing to capture and redirect the national literary imagination.
Ferraro's sharply observed reading of these five works shows how such reenactments of immigrant mobility test the ideology of assimilation against the writer's experience. Ethnic Passages will refocus discussion of how literature addresses the American conflict between ethnic heritage and the greater opportunities of "mainstream" society.
Literary archives differ from most other types of archival papers in that their locations are more diverse and difficult to predict. The essays collected in this book derive from the recent work of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, whose focus on diaspora provides a philosophical framework which gives a highly original set of points of reference for the study of literary archives, including concepts such as the natural home, the appropriate location, exile, dissidence, fugitive existence, cultural hegemony, patrimony, heritage, and economic migration.
The first anthology of its kind, Humor Me is a celebration of humor by authors from diverse cultures. Sixteen of today's most exciting writers—among them Sherman Alexie, Gish Jen, Charles Johnson, and Lucille Clifton—are represented in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, drama, cartoons, and graphic narratives. Whether using satire, parody, or farce, these writers explore the universal themes of love, family, sex, and race, and they do so in their own edgy, subversive, and sometimes skewed ways.
In Sherman Alexie's short story “Assimilation,” a Coeur d’Alene woman wants to cheat on her white husband with an Indian man, any Indian man—or, as Alexie puts it, “an indigenous stranger.” In Sandra Tsing Loh's essay “Daddy Dearest,” the author cringes when an old friend asks if her father still wears his underwear backward and does the Chinese snake dance on Pacific Coast Highway.
Nothing in Humor Me is taboo, as Erika Lopez proves in her illustrated tale of one environmentally conscious woman's attempt to subvert the tampon industry. Jim Northrup even takes on that American institution Jeopardy! in his satire “Shinnob Jep,” describing a game that quizzes its contestants on Native American trivia, including the categories “Trick or Treaties” and “Rez Cars.” From low-brow to high-brow, from belly laughs to the cerebral, Humor Me places internationally renowned writers such as Charles Johnson and Gish Jen alongside rising stars Paisley Rekdal and Michele Serros and a host of newcomers, including Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Daniel Chacón.
Mongrel Nation surveys the history of the United Kingdom’s African, Asian, and Caribbean populations from 1948 to the present, working at the juncture of cultural studies, literary criticism, and postcolonial theory. Ashley Dawson argues that during the past fifty years Asian and black intellectuals from Sam Selvon to Zadie Smith have continually challenged the United Kingdom’s exclusionary definitions of citizenship, using innovative forms of cultural expression to reconfigure definitions of belonging in the postcolonial age. By examining popular culture and exploring topics such as the nexus of race and gender, the growth of transnational politics, and the clash between first- and second-generation immigrants, Dawson broadens and enlivens the field of postcolonial studies.
Mongrel Nation gives readers a broad landscape from which to view the shifting currents of politics, literature, and culture in postcolonial Britain. At a time when the contradictions of expansionist braggadocio again dominate the world stage, Mongrel Nation usefully illuminates the legacy of imperialism and suggests that creative voices of resistance can never be silenced.Dawson
“Elegant, eloquent, and full of imaginative insight, Mongrel Nation is a refreshing, engaged, and informative addition to post-colonial and diasporic literary scholarship.”
—Hazel V. Carby, Yale University
“Eloquent and strong, insightful and historically precise, lively and engaging, Mongrel Nation is an expansive history of twentieth-century internationalist encounters that provides a broader landscape from which to understand currents, shifts, and historical junctures that shaped the international postcolonial imagination.”
—May Joseph, Pratt Institute
Ashley Dawson is Associate Professor of English at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. He is coeditor of the forthcoming Exceptional State: Contemporary U.S. Culture and the New Imperialism.
In this engaging, optimistic close reading of five late twentieth-century novels by American women, Magali Cornier Michael illuminates the ways in which their authors engage with ideas of communal activism, common commitment, and social transformation. The fictions she examines imagine coalition building as a means of moving toward new forms of nonhierarchical justice; for ethnic cultures that, as a result of racist attitudes, have not been assimilated, power with each other rather than power over each other is a collective goal.Michael argues that much contemporary American fiction by women offers models of care and nurturing that move away from the private sphere toward the public and political. Specifically, texts by women from such racially marked ethnic groups as African American, Asian American, Native American, and Mexican American draw from the rich systems of thought, histories, and experiences of these hybrid cultures and thus offer feminist and ethical revisions of traditional concepts of community, coalition, subjectivity, and agency.Focusing on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Michael shows that each writer emphasizes the positive, liberating effects of kinship and community. These hybrid versions of community, which draw from other-than-dominant culturally specific ideas and histories, have something to offer Americans as the United States moves into an increasingly diverse twenty-first century. Michael provides a rich lens through which to view both contemporary fiction and contemporary life.
Where are the women writers of color? Where are their theoretical voices?
The fifteen contributors to Other Sisterhoods: Literary Theory and U.S. Women of Color examine the ways that women writers of color have
contributed to the discourse of literary and cultural theory. They focus
on the impact of key issues, such as social construction and identity
politics, on the works of women writers of color, as well as on the ways
these women deal with differences relating to gender, class, race/ethnicity,
and sexuality. The book also explores the ways women writers of color
have created their own ethnopoetics within the arena of literary and cultural
theory, helping to redefine the nature of theory itself.
"A sophisticated resource that will do much to carry us through
to the next century. Great work!" -- Alvina E. Quintana, author of Home Girls: Chicana Literary Voices CONTRIBUTORS:Sandra Kumamoto Stanley, AnaLouise Keating, Dionne Espinoza, Kimberly N. Brown, Marilyn Edelstein, Tomo Hattori, Robin Riley Fast, King-Kok Cheung, Timothy Libretti, Renae Moore Bredin, Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez, Kimberly M. Blaeser, Kathryn Bond Stockton, Eun Kyung Min, Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes
Pivotal Voices, Era of Transition gathers Rigoberto González’s most important essays and book reviews, many of which consider the work of emerging poets whose identities and political positions are transforming what readers expect from contemporary poetry. A number of these voices represent intersectional communities, such as queer writers of color like Natalie Díaz, Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong, and Eduardo C. Corral, and many writers, such as Carmen Giménez Smith and David Tomás Martínez, have deep connections to their Latino communities. Collectively, these writers are enriching American poetry to reflect a more diverse, panoramic, and socially conscious literary landscape. Also featured are essays on the poets’ literary ancestors—including Juan Felipe Herrera, Alurista, and Francisco X. Alarcón—and speeches that address the need to leverage poetry as agency.
This book fills a glaring gap in existing poetry scholarship by focusing exclusively on writers of color, and particularly on Latino poetry. González makes important observations about the relevance, urgency, and exquisite craft of the work coming from writers who represent marginalized communities. His insightful connections between the Latino, African American, Asian American, and Native American literatures persuasively position them as a collective movement critiquing, challenging, and reorienting the direction of American poetry with their nuanced and politicized verse. González’s inclusive vision covers a wide landscape of writers, opening literary doors for sexual and ethnic minorities.
In this capacious and challenging book, Maria Damon surveys the poetry and culture of the United States in two distinct but inextricably linked periods. In part 1, “Identity K/not/e/s,” she considers the America of the 1950s and early 1960s, when contentious and troubled alliances took shape between different marginalized communities and their respective but overlapping bohemias—Jews, African Americans, the Beats, and gays and lesbians. Using a rich trove of texts and artifacts—ranging from Gertrude Stein’s writings about her own Jewishness to transcripts from Lenny Bruce’s obscenity trial, Bob Kaufman’s Beat poetry—as well as her own stake in the material, Damon plumbs the complexities of social identity and expressive cultures to fascinating effect.
Always erudite but never effete, Damon then turns to more contemporary issues and broader topics of poetics: micropoetries, cyberpoetics, spoken-word poets, performance poets, and their communities. Echoing many of the themes of the first section of the book, including poetic identity and the troubled nature of the poetic “I,” part 2’s “Poetics for a Postliterary America” goes on to paint a wider picture, dwelling less on close readings of individual poems and more on asking questions about the nature of poetry itself and its role in community formation and individual survival. Discussions of counterperformance, kinetics, the Nuyoricans, Latino identity, and electronic poetics enliven this section.
Never reluctant to acknowledge the deeply personal origins of the work at hand, Damon cleaves to the subject matter, be it questions of identity, matters of poetry, or what it means to live in a postliterary culture. In doing so, she dares to ask what it means to be a member of the “shadow people”—those who occupy marginalized, nocturnal counterculture—creating verbal art.
What did it mean for people of color in nineteenth-century America to speak or write "white"? More specifically, how many and what kinds of meaning could such "white" writing carry? In ReWriting White, Todd Vogel looks at how America has racialized language and aesthetic achievement. To make his point, he showcases the surprisingly complex interactions between four nineteenth-century writers of color and the "standard white English" they adapted for their own moral, political, and social ends. The African American, Native American, and Chinese American writers Vogel discusses delivered their messages in a manner that simultaneously demonstrated their command of the dominant discourse of their times-using styles and addressing forums considered above their station-and fashioned a subversive meaning in the very act of that demonstration.
The close readings and meticulous archival research in ReWriting White upend our conventional expectations, enrich our understanding of the dynamics of hegemony and cultural struggle, and contribute to the efforts of other cutting-edge contemporary scholars to chip away at the walls of racial segregation that have for too long defined and defaced the landscape of American literary and cultural studies.
In the United States miscegenation is not merely a subject of literature and popular culture. It is in many ways the foundation of contemporary imaginary community. The Romance of Race examines the role of minority women writers and reformers in the creation of our modern American multiculturalism.
The national identity of the United States was transformed between 1880 and 1930 due to mass immigration, imperial expansion, the rise of Jim Crow, and the beginning of the suffrage movement. A generation of women writers and reformers—particularly women of color—contributed to these debates by imagining new national narratives that put minorities at the center of American identity. Jane Addams, Pauline Hopkins, Onoto Watanna (Winnifred Eaton), María Cristina Mena, and Mourning Dove (Christine Quintasket) embraced the images of the United States—and increasingly the world—as an interracial nuclear family. They also reframed public debates through narratives depicting interracial encounters as longstanding, unacknowledged liaisons between white men and racialized women that produced an incestuous, mixed-race nation.
By mobilizing the sexual taboos of incest and miscegenation, these women writers created political allegories of kinship and community. Through their criticisms of the nation’s history of exploitation and colonization, they also imagined a more inclusive future. As Jolie A. Sheffer identifies the contemporary template for American multiculturalism in the works of turn-of-the century minority writers, she uncovers a much more radical history than has previously been considered.
To Be Suddenly White explores the troubled relationship between literary passing and literary realism, the dominant aesthetic motivation behind the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century ethnic texts considered in this study. Steven J. Belluscio uses the passing narrative to provide insight into how the representation of ethnic and racial subjectivity served, in part, to counter dominant narratives of difference.
To Be Suddenly White offers new readings of traditional passing narratives from the African American literary tradition, such as James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, Nella Larsen’s Passing, and George Schuyler’s Black No More. It is also the first full-length work to consider a number of Jewish American and Italian American prose texts, such as Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, and Guido d’Agostino’s Olives on the Apple Tree, as racial passing narratives in their own right. Belluscio also demonstrates the contradictions that result from the passing narrative’s exploration of racial subjectivity, racial difference, and race itself.
When they are seen in comparison, ideological differences begin to emerge between African American passing narratives and “white ethnic” (Jewish American and Italian American) passing narratives. According to Belluscio, the former are more likely to engage in a direct critique of ideas of race, while the latter have a tendency to become more simplistic acculturation narratives in which a character moves from a position of ethnic difference to one of full American identity.
The desire “to be suddenly white” serves as a continual point of reference for Belluscio, enabling him to analyze how writers, even when overtly aware of the problematic nature of race (especially African American writers), are also aware of the conditions it creates, the transformations it provokes, and the consequences of both. Byexamining the content and context of these works, Belluscio elucidates their engagement with discourses of racial and ethnic differences, assimilation, passing, and identity, an approach that has profound implications for the understanding of American literary history.
The dawn of the twentieth century saw the birth of the New Woman, a cultural and literary ideal that replaced Victorian expectations of domesticity with visions of social, political, and economic autonomy. Although such writers as Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin treated these ideals in well-known literature of that era, marginalized women also explored changing gender roles in works that deserve more attention today.
This book is the first study to focus solely on multiethnic women writers’ responses to the ideal of the New Woman in America, opening up a world of literary texts that provide new insight into the phenomenon. Charlotte Rich reveals how these authors uniquely articulated the contradictions of the American New Woman, and how social class, race, or ethnicity impacted women’s experiences of both public and private life in the Progressive era.
Rich focuses on the work of writers representing five distinct ethnicities: Native Americans S. Alice Callahan and Mourning Dove, African American Pauline Hopkins, Chinese American Sui Sin Far, Mexican American María Cristina Mena, and Jewish American Anzia Yezierska. She shows that some oftheir works contain both affirmative and critical portraits of white New Women; in other cases, while these authorsalign their multiethnic heroines with the new ideals, those ideals are sometimes subordinated to more urgent dialogues about inequality and racial violence.
Here are views of women not usually encountered in fiction of this era. Callahan’s and Mourning Dove’s novels allude to women’s rights but ultimately privilege critiques of violence against Native Americans. Hopkins’s novels trace an increasingly pessimistic trajectory, drawing cynical conclusions about black women’s ability to thrive in a prejudiced society. Mena’s magazine portraits of Mexican life present complex critiques of this independent ideal of womanhood. Yezierska’s stories question the philanthropy of socially privileged Progressive female reformers with whom immigrant women interact. These writers’ works sometimes affirm emerging ideals but in other cases illuminate the iconic New Woman’s blindness to her own racial and economic privilege.
Through her insightful analysis, Rich presents alternative versions of female autonomy, with characters living outside the mainstream or moving between cultures. Transcending the New Woman offers multiple ways of transcending an ideal that was problematic in its exclusivity, as well as an entrée to forgotten works. It shows how the concept of the New Woman can be seen in newly complex ways when viewed through the writings of authors whose lives often embody the New Woman’s emancipatory goals—and whose fictions both affirm and complicateher aspirations.
Examining autobiographical texts by Malcolm X (The Autobiography of Malcolm X), Oscar Zeta Acosta (The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and Revolt of the Cockroach People), Amiri Baraka (The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones), and Richard Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory, Days of Obligation, and Brown), Walker questions the often rosy views and simplistic binary conceptions of religious conversion. Her reading of these texts takes into account the conflict and serial changes the authors experience in a society that marginalizes them, the manner in which religious conversion offers ethnic Americans “salvation” through cultural assimilation or cultural nationalism, and what conversion, anticonversion, and deconversion narratives tell us about the problematic effects of religion that often go unremarked because of a code of “special respect” and political correctness.
Walker asserts that critics have been too willing to praise religion in America as salutary or beyond the ken of criticism because religious belief is seen as belonging to an untouchable arena of cultural identity. The Trouble with Sauling Around goes beyond traditional literary criticism to pay close attention to the social phenomena that underlie religious conversion narratives and considers the potentially negative effects of religious conversion, something that has been likewise neglected by scholars.
During the Cold War, Ellis Island no longer served as the largest port of entry for immigrants, but as a prison for holding aliens the state wished to deport. The government criminalized those it considered un-assimilable (from left-wing intellectuals and black radicals to racialized migrant laborers) through the denial, annulment, and curtailment of citizenship and its rights. The island, ceasing to represent the iconic ideal of immigrant America, came to symbolize its very limits.
Unbecoming Americans sets out to recover the shadow narratives of un-American writers forged out of the racial and political limits of citizenship. In this collection of Afro-Caribbean, Filipino, and African American writers—C.L.R. James, Carlos Bulosan, Claudia Jones, and Richard Wright—Joseph Keith examines how they used their exclusion from the nation, a condition he terms “alienage,” as a standpoint from which to imagine alternative global solidarities and to interrogate the contradictions of the United States as a country, a republic, and an empire at the dawn of the "American Century.”
Building on scholarship linking the forms of the novel to those of the nation, the book explores how these writers employed alternative aesthetic forms, including memoir, cultural criticism, and travel narrative, to contest prevailing notions of race, nation, and citizenship. Ultimately they produced a vital counter-discourse of freedom in opposition to the new formations of empire emerging in the years after World War II, forms that continue to shape our world today.
THE USES OF VARIETY
Carrie Tirado BRAMEN Harvard University Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS374.D45B73 2000 | Dewey Decimal 813.009355
The turn of the last century, amid the excesses of the Gilded Age, variety became a key notion for Americans'a sign of national progress and development, reassurance that the modern nation would not fall into monotonous dullness or disorderly chaos. Carrie Tirado Bramen pursues this idea through the works of a wide range of regional and cosmopolitan writers, journalists, theologians, and politicians who rewrote the narrative of American exceptionalism through a celebration of variety. Exploring cultural and institutional spheres ranging from intra-urban walking tours in popular magazines to the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago, she shows how the rhetoric of variety became naturalized and nationalized as quintessentially American and inherently democratic. By focusing on the uses of the term in the work of William James, Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Du Bois, Hamlin Garland, and Wong Chin Foo, among many others, Bramen reveals how the perceived innocence and goodness of variety were used to construct contradictory and mutually exclusive visions of modern Americanism. Bramen's innovation is to look at the debates of a century ago that established diversity as the distinctive feature of U.S. culture. In the late-nineteenth-century conception, which emphasized the openness of variety while at the same time acknowledging its limits, she finds a useful corrective to the contemporary tendency to celebrate the United States as a postmodern melange or a carnivalesque utopia of hybridity and difference.
Table of Contents: Introduction: Americanizing Variety
I. The Ideological Formation of Pluralism 1. William James and the Modern Federal Republic 2. Identity Culture and Cosmopolitanism
II. The Aesthetics of Diversity 3. The Uneven Development of American Regionalism 4. The Urban Picturesque and Americanization
III. Heterogeneous Unions 5. Biracial Fictions and the Mendelist Allegory 6. East Meets West at the World's Parliament of Religions
Afterword: In Defense of Partiality Notes Works Cited Acknowledgments Index
Reviews of this book: [Bramen] brings dogged research and steady focus to [a] central ambiguity in the American ethos...Her study delivers several powerful messages even plain-talking people can understand. For one, Bramen shows that issues of ethnic diversity and variety, far from being epiphenomena of the last few decades, course through our history and spotlight the ambiguities in what it means to be an American...The Uses of Variety boasts gems...of past cultural history that remind us these are perennial issues...[Bramen's] penetrating expedition through the nuances of America's breast-beating about 'diversity within unity' concentrates the mind. Out of many examples comes an important book: a flinty challenge to intellectual complacency about ourselves. --Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer
The Uses of Variety is a significant addition to and revision of a century of American pragmatist thinking about difference. Bramen brings new conceptual tools to bear on the history of multicultural thought and literature and thereby avoids the common pitfalls to produce an important survey and synthesis. --Tom Lutz, author of American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History and editor of These 'Colored' United States: African American Essays from the 1920s
Carrie Bramen offers a compelling, intellectually rigorous history of the protean idea of pluralism, a concept that has been embraced heartily by both liberals and conservatives as essential in defining American identity. Situating pluralism in philosophical, psychological, aesthetic, and political contexts, Bramen brings a fresh perspective to illuminating the meaning of the term for late Victorian America and, significantly, its legacy for us today. --Linda Simon, author of Genuine Reality: A Life of William James
Taking William James's 'pluralistic universe' as a starting point, The Uses of Variety takes us through regions, ghettos, religious congresses, and a range of theoretical, philosophical, and literary works to explore the multiple and often conflicting constructions of 'variety' in the context of turn-of-the-century U.S. nationalism and cosmopolitanism. Carrie Tirado Bramen brings together a broad spectrum of historical events and cultural theories in which variety variously expressed, contained, and shaped an increasing diversity that was perceived as threatening national coherence. This insightful, thoroughly researched, and timely work will be indispensable for scholars interested in U.S. nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and multiculturalism. --Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form
For many years, America cherished its image as a Golden Door for the world’s oppressed. But during the Progressive Era, mounting racial hostility along with new national legislation that imposed strict restrictions on immigration began to show the nation in a different light. The literature of this period reflects the controversy and uncertainty that abounded regarding the meaning of “American.” Literary output participated in debates about restriction, assimilation, and whether the idea of the “Melting Pot” was worth preserving. Writers advocated—and also challenged—what emerged as a radical new way of understanding the nation’s ethnic and racial identity: cultural pluralism.
From these debates came such novels as Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Henry James, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Carl Sandburg added to the diversity of viewpoints of native born Americans while equally divergent immigrant perspectives were represented by writers such as Anzia Yezierska, Kahlil Gibran, and Claude McKay. This anthology presents the writing of these authors, among others less well known, to show the many ways literature participated in shaping the face of immigration. The volume also includes an introduction, annotations, a timeline, and historical documents that contextualize the literature.
Expanding the scope of American borderland and frontier literary scholarship, West of the Border examines the writings of nineteenth- and turn-of-the-century Native, African, Asian, and Anglo American frontier writers. This book views frontiers as “human spaces” where cultures make contact as it considers multicultural frontier writers who speak from “west of the border.”
James P. Beckwourth, a half-black fur trader; Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins, a Paiute translator; Salishan author Mourning Dove; Cherokee novelist John Rollin Ridge; Sui Sin Far, an Anglo-Chinese short story writer, and her sister, romance novelist Onoto Watanna; and Mary Austin, a white southwestern writer- each of these intercultural writers faces a rite of passage into a new social order. Their writings negotiate their various frontier ordeals: the encroachment of pioneers on the land; reservation life; assimilation; Christianity; battles over territories and resources; exclusion; miscegenation laws; and the devastation of the environment.
In West of the Border, Noreen Groover Lape raises issues inherent in American pluralism today by broaching timely concerns about American frontier politics, conceptualizing frontiers as intercultural contact zones, and expanding the boundaries of frontier literary studies by giving voice to minority writers.
Winner of the John S. Tuckey 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award for Mark Twain Scholarship from The Center for Mark Twain Studies
American novelist E.L. Doctorow once observed that literature “endows places with meaning.” Yet, as this wide-ranging new book vividly illustrates, understanding the places that shaped American writers’ lives and their art can provide deep insight into what makes their literature truly meaningful.
Published on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act, Writing America is a unique, passionate, and eclectic series of meditations on literature and history, covering over 150 important National Register historic sites, all pivotal to the stories that make up America, from chapels to battlefields; from plantations to immigration stations; and from theaters to internment camps. The book considers not only the traditional sites for literary tourism, such as Mark Twain’s sumptuous Connecticut home and the peaceful woods surrounding Walden Pond, but also locations that highlight the diversity of American literature, from the New York tenements that spawned Abraham Cahan’s fiction to the Texas pump house that irrigated the fields in which the farm workers central to Gloria Anzaldúa’s poetry picked produce. Rather than just providing a cursory overview of these authors’ achievements, acclaimed literary scholar and cultural historian Shelley Fisher Fishkin offers a deep and personal reflection on how key sites bore witness to the struggles of American writers and inspired their dreams. She probes the global impact of American writers’ innovative art and also examines the distinctive contributions to American culture by American writers who wrote in languages other than English, including Yiddish, Chinese, and Spanish.
Only a scholar with as wide-ranging interests as Shelley Fisher Fishkin would dare to bring together in one book writers as diverse as Gloria Anzaldúa, Nicholas Black Elk, David Bradley, Abraham Cahan, S. Alice Callahan, Raymond Chandler, Frank Chin, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Countee Cullen, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jessie Fauset, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg, Jovita González, Rolando Hinojosa, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Lawson Fusao Inada, James Weldon Johnson, Erica Jong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Irena Klepfisz, Nella Larsen, Emma Lazarus, Sinclair Lewis, Genny Lim, Claude McKay, Herman Melville, N. Scott Momaday, William Northup, John Okada, Miné Okubo, Simon Ortiz, Américo Paredes, John P. Parker, Ann Petry, Tomás Rivera, Wendy Rose, Morris Rosenfeld, John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Yoshiko Uchida, Tino Villanueva, Nathanael West, Walt Whitman, Richard Wright, Hisaye Yamamoto, Anzia Yezierska, and Zitkala-Ša.
Leading readers on an enticing journey across the borders of physical places and imaginative terrains, the book includes over 60 images, and extended excerpts from a variety of literary works. Each chapter ends with resources for further exploration. Writing America reveals the alchemy though which American writers have transformed the world around them into art, changing their world and ours in the process.
The legal texts and aspirational ideals of human rights are usually understood and applied in a global context with little bearing on the legal discourse, domestic political struggles, or social justice concerns within the United States. In Writing Human Rights, Crystal Parikh uses the international human rights regime to read works by contemporary American writers of color—Toni Morrison, Chang-rae Lee, Ana Castillo, Aimee Phan, and others—to explore the conditions under which new norms, more capacious formulations of rights, and alternative kinds of political communities emerge.
Parikh contends that unlike humanitarianism, which views its objects as victims, human rights provide avenues for the creation of political subjects. Pairing the ethical deliberations in such works as Beloved and A Gesture Life with human rights texts like the United Nations Convention Against Torture, she considers why principles articulated as rights in international conventions and treaties—such as the right to self-determination or the right to family—are too often disregarded at home. Human rights concepts instead provide writers of color with a deeply meaningful method for political and moral imagining in their literature.
Affiliating transnational works of American literature with decolonization, socialist, and other political struggles in the global south, this book illuminates a human rights critique of idealized American rights and freedoms that have been globalized in the twenty-first century. In the absence of domestic human rights enforcement, these literatures provide a considerable repository for those ways of life and subjects of rights made otherwise impossible in the present antidemocratic moment.