Essays from the Multicultural Experience
PUBLISHER: University of Georgia Press
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Daily Fare presents seventeen artfully crafted essays in which writers representing a broad spectrum of the American experience ponder the meaning of living in a nation of diverse and competing cultures. Consistently thought-provoking and often intensely personal, these pieces confront such themes as the question of identity, the individual's relation to culture, problems of communication, and the need to strike a balance between preserving traditions and merging them.
Memories both tender and painful fill these pages. Toi Derricotte, recalling her experiences as the only black person at an artist colony, often found her sense of isolation almost unbearable: "No one can help. Only I, myself. But how can I let go? My face is a mask, like Uncle Tom's, my heart twisted in rage and fear." In "The Death of Fred Astaire," Leslie Lawrence reflects on the difficult decisions that led to her becoming a lesbian mother and the mix of emotions-apprehension, maternal longing, and, finally, joyous fulfillment-that accompanied her choices. In "Kubota," Garrett Hongo describes how his grandfather enjoined him to learn and to give witness to the injustices committed against Japanese Americans by their own government during World War II; Hongo accepts this responsibility as "a ritual payment the young owe their elders who have survived."
Several bilingual essayists contemplate their relationship to the English language-a language that can empower its users or deny them access to the dominant culture. For Judith Ortiz Cofer, reading books from the public library as a child gave her a sense of freedom as well as her first intimations of the writing career she would later pursue. Alberto Alvaro Rios, however, reminds us that learning English in the first grade also meant being punished for using Spanish: "Spanish was bad. Okay. We, then, must be bad kids."
Still other essays explore what it means to confront the confusions of a plural family heritage or to be a black artist from a Catholic background when so much of black culture is tied to the Protestant tradition. "Despite the current interest in multiculturalism," Kathleen Aguero observes, "the notion of culture in the United States today is too often synonymous with predominantly white, male, heterosexual, upper-class, Eurocentric interests." In bringing together writers from beyond this tradition, Daily Fare provides a valuable perspective on our current moment in history. As Jack Agueros, summing up both the dilemma and the pleasure of our society's diversity, writes, "It's hard and wasteful to be purely ethnic in America-definitely wasteful to be totally assimilated."
PUBLICATION DATE: 2/1/1993
CATEGORY: Social Science