Essay on Ethnic Literature

1266 Words Dec 26th, 2012 6 Pages
The Power in a Name

The term “ethnic” when in conjunction with the word “literature” in the academic discourse community of students, often brings out mixed feelings of excitement and dread. On the one hand, students understand that they will be getting away from the canonical American literature – which can equal boring in their eyes; on the other hand, students interpret the term “ethnic literature” to mean distinctive – which can equal confusing or ambiguous – and perhaps at times not relatable because it is outside their scope of experiences.
Perhaps before jumping into why it matters, the term “ethnic literature” should be defined first and because I am still learning how to interpret this term myself, I searched for a suitable
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At this deeper level I am trying to get at, I find John M. Reilly’s article “Criticism of Ethnic Literature: Seeing the Whole Story” helpful in acquiring this. He states that, “the assertion of ethnicity in literature can be made only through a procedure by which the writer resolves formal problems... what moves from recognition of identity to creation of a strategy for handling reality still is not literature until the individual author sustains her or his ethnic identity through a sequence of formal choices” (4). I am interpreting this to mean that as a reader of this literature, I should see and feel throughout the story (perhaps subtlety) that in some way, the characters mindset (and perhaps actions) in the story differ from my own specifically because of the culture they have grown up in in, which has shaped that character’s thinking.
There are thoughts and feelings – ideas, I don’t understand without further explanation from the author, which is sometimes provided, and sometimes not. An example of this is in Brando Skyhorse’s novel The Madonnas of Echo Park, I find myself wondering what the significance of the jacaranda trees mentioned in different parts of the book. Looking up what they are, it becomes apparent to me as jacaranda trees are native to…

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