American Narratives: Multiethnic Writing in the Age of by Margaret Crumpton Winter

By Margaret Crumpton Winter

American Narratives takes readers again to the flip of the 20th century to reintroduce 4 writers of various ethnic backgrounds whose works have been normally neglected by way of critics in their day. With the ability of a literary detective, Molly Crumpton iciness recovers an early multicultural discourse on assimilation and nationwide belonging that has been principally ignored by means of literary students.

At the guts of the ebook are shut readings of works by way of 4 approximately forgotten artists from 1890 to 1915, the period usually termed the age of realism: Mary Antin, a Jewish American immigrant from Russia; Zitkala-Ša, a Sioux girl initially from South Dakota; Sutton E. Griggs, an African American from the South; and Sui Sin some distance, a biracial, chinese language American girl author who lived at the West Coast. Winter's therapy of Antin's The Promised Land serves as an social gathering for a reexamination of the idea that of assimilation in American literature, and the bankruptcy on Zitkala-Ša is the main complete research of her narratives up to now. wintry weather argues persuasively that Griggs must have lengthy been a extra noticeable presence in American literary background, and the exploration of Sui Sin some distance unearths her to be the embodiment of the various and unpredictable ways in which range of cultures got here jointly in America.

In American Narratives, iciness keeps that the writings of those 4 rediscovered authors, with their emphasis on problems with ethnicity, id, and nationality, healthy squarely within the American realist culture. She additionally establishes a multiethnic discussion between those writers, demonstrating ways that cultural id and nationwide belonging are peristently contested during this literature.

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One, coming from liberal social reformers, was that assimilation was the key to American citizenship; the other, coming from nativists, was that newcomers from eastern Europe had no rights to American citizenship and were, in fact, inassimilable. Pressure to limit foreigners’ entry into the United States came from such outspoken groups as the Immigration Restriction League, which was formed the very year Antin came from Russia to Massachusetts. In their efforts to convince the public that the new wave of arrivals was detrimental to the American national character, this group and other nativists set out to “prove” and publicize the inferiority of peoples from southern and eastern Europe.

As for me, I was simply cheated. The name they gave me was hardly new. . My friends said that it would hold in English as Mary; which was very disappointing, as I longed to possess a strange-sounding American name like the others” (49–50). The pleasure she gains from abandoning her Russian name, “Mashke,” is instantly replaced by disappointment that “Mary” is so similar to the name she has just discarded. To throw off an identity marker that signifies association with one’s origins indicates a rejection of the past.

A girl was ‘finished’ when she could read her prayers in Hebrew, following the meaning by the aid of the Yiddish translation especially prepared for women. If she could sign her name in Russian, do a little figuring, and write in Yiddish to the parents of her betrothed, she was called wohl gelehrent—well educated” (90). Throughout the text, Antin describes her development as an American New Woman, which is clearly Mary Antin and Assimilation 43 at odds with the Polotzk community’s expectation that she become a traditional Jewish wife and mother.

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