American Ethnic Literature Essay

Pages: 6 (2099 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

In this argument, Anzaldua uses the concept of how language help define the experience of minority individuals, which is very often a theme that is not explicitly expressed in American ethnic literature. Here, she writes, "Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish have internalized the belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bastard language. And because we internalized how our language has been used against us at the dominant culture, we use our language differences against each other," (Anzaldua 2950). There is a need for the individual and society at large to except these hybrid forms of identity in contemporary American culture. Language is crucial to the formation of both culture and identity. By being denied this by both Americans and Mexicans, the identity of Chicana and Chicano had long been ridden with shame and self doubt; "Ethnic identity is twin skin to linguistic identity -- I and my language. Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself," (Anzaldua 2951). It is important to Anzaldua to be able to use her own choice of language, no matter what the two groups think, in order to express her own unique identity.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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The final work to be examined here is Cathy Song's short poem "Lost Sister. This work expresses minority characteristics in terms of beauty, rather than something to be ashamed of our dulled down. It represents a sense of nostalgia for experiences long past, that is thus echoing Ellison in the embracing of minority traditions without fear of embarrassment or shame within a more contemporary context. One can never fully be Chinese nor American, but one is instead kind of caught in the middle, but still longing for a past never personally experienced. In Song's poem this is seen within the image of the lost sister, "In China even the peasants named their first daughters Jade" (Song 1). Song focuses on the glorification of her ethnic past, rather than being embarrassed by it. Her tone and language choices creates a very dreamy and visceral image that represents her Chinese heritage in a positive light; "the stone that in the far field could voice in the dry season, could make men move mountains for the ceiling green of the inner health glistening like the slice winter melon" (Song 1). She, too, is learning to embrace a past that is not necessarily entirely hers, but still part of her modern identity.

American ethnic literature aims to expose the previously silent voices of the minority groups here in the United States. As it progresses, it is clear that it aims to expose the racist past and embrace a sense of ethnic identity, rather than hiding it in order to assimilate into mainstream America. Yet, in this there is a great challenge in American ethnic literature; "The challenge, overall, becomes one of making ethnicity neither too prescriptive, nor yet so porous as the curb usable definition. The grand sweep risks losing particularity. Two particular a focus risks losing genuine overlap and linkage," (Lee 9).


Anzaldua, Gloria. "How to Tame a Wild Tongue." Borderland / La Frontera. Web.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage International. 1995.

Franco, Dean J. Ethnic American Literature: Comparing Chicano, Jewish, and African-American Writing. University of Virginia Press. 2006.

Lee, Robert A. Multicultural American Literature: Comparative Black, Native, Latino/a and Asian-American Fictions. University Press of Mississippi. 2003.

Song, Cathy. "Lost Sister." Literary Arts. 1999. Web. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "American Ethnic Literature" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

American Ethnic Literature.  (2012, March 1).  Retrieved November 27, 2020, from

MLA Format

"American Ethnic Literature."  1 March 2012.  Web.  27 November 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"American Ethnic Literature."  March 1, 2012.  Accessed November 27, 2020.