Piecing Together the ‘Here’ and ‘There’: Identity Crises in Diasporic Literature

1667 WordsJan 26, 20187 Pages
Identity is at the core of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets, Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones, and Rhina Espiallat’s Where Horizons Go. All of these Diasporic literary works deals with the manner in which the characters negotiate their relationships between their current locations and their ancestral homelands. In each work the protagonists struggle to unionize there two parts of his/her identity, to bring together the ‘here’ (where they are now) and ‘there’ (their ancestral homeland). Salina, the protagonist of Brown Girl, Brown Stones, goes back and forth throughout the novel in a struggle to resolve her identity (her American-ness and her Barbadian roots). From the loving descriptions of her family’s brownstone house in Brooklyn Salina expresses her love for Brooklyn as her home. To Salina the house is a living, breathing thing. It is not just a house; the personification of the brownstones house almost makes it seem as though Salina viewed it as a member of her family. Additionally, there are many instances where Selina is clearly acting resistant to recognizing her ancestral homeland of Barbados. One instance where this resistance is shown is when, early in the novel when the protagonist is still very young, Selina shakes the silver bangles on her wrist, “which had come from ‘home’ and which every Barbadian-American girl wore from birth[,] . . . sounding her defiance” (Marshall 5). This act is very clearly symbolic of her resisting her ancestral roots.

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