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Growing Up Ethnic in America: Contemporary Fiction About Learning to Be American Paperback – November 1, 1999
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The stories and memoirs in this collection are great: Sherman Alexie, Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, E. L. Doctorow, Sandra Cisneros, and many more of our best writers deal directly, but never simplistically, with the conflicts of becoming American. They personalize what you lose by crossing borders, what you leave behind, what you gain, what America gains. They write with humor and poignancy, rooted in particulars that speak to everyone about dislocation, about being an outsider at school, in the neighborhood, at home. Some stories will be new to most readers; some are often anthologized. In her fine introduction, Jennifer Gillan points out that the stories show empathy without sweet nostalgia or any idealization of ethnicity. This kind of collection, with its literary quality and multiple perspectives, is the best answer to those who expect only messages with multiculturalism and who sneer "P.C." at the mention of diversity. Hazel Rochman
From Kirkus Reviews
A companion volume to Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural American Poetry that draws on work by some first-rate writers to make the point that that modern ideas about what it means to be an American are changing. The change, of course, is a result both of the influx of new immigrants and of the growing awareness of distinct identities and unique histories among older immigrant groups. While this is not entirely news, the Gillans generally strong anthology does demonstrate the ways in which some very skilled writers have explored these issues. The tales are divided into four sections: ``Performing'' gathers stories (by E.L. Doctorow, Amy Tan, Gary Soto, and Daryl Pinckney, among others) that focus on the ways members of distinct ethnic communities have tried to identify and (to varying extent) adapt or imitate concepts about what it means to be an American. The tales in ``Crossing'' (which includes work by Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz) follow a variety of hesitant efforts by such individuals to straddle the divide between their cultures and American society. ``Negotiating'' features stories (by, among others, Gish Jen, Bruce Jacobs, and Diane Glancy) that probe the many ways in which those without much power to effect change try to find some sense of security in the US without entirely jettisoning their past. And the pieces in ``Bridging'' (including those by Sherman Alexie, Simon Ortiz, and Sylvia Watanabe) deal largely with the efforts of outsiders to reconnect with the cultures they have left behind. The stories, set largely in the recent past or in the present, and ranging in setting from Indian reservations to besieged urban neighborhoods, offer some sensitive and compelling readings of the struggles of those often rendered voiceless by society. An impressive gathering of tales charting the turbulent nature of modern American society, and the efforts of individuals and groups often considered outside the mainstream to discover and maintain their identities. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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This book is good for anyone interested in how people navigate keeping their own culture while living in the United States