From: IN%"YARBOROU@humnet.ucla.edu" "Richard Yarborough"
Subj: A QUERY
Valerie Smith, King-Kok Cheung, and I are in the midst of putting together a new course on interracial interactions in American fiction. Not surprisingly, most of the texts that we've located thus far focus on contacts between white Americans and people of color. We've also found a few works by Asian-American authors that deal with contact with blacks. To this point, that's about it. We would greatly appreciate any suggestions of other texts that we might consider for our reading list. Thanks.
Here is the first set of responses to the query by Richard Yarborough
who, along with Valerie Smith and King-Kok Cheung, is putting together
a course on "Interracial interactions." The original query asked for
works on the interractions of all races, not just white -black
(Many more to come)
Michael Dorris, _Yellow Raft on Blue Water_, focuses on black/Native American interaction.
Look at Bernard Malamud's THE TENANTS. [NEXT Malamud]
My "multicultural American lit" course focuses on cultural interaction between people from different backgrounds (not just race). I've used Sherley Anne Williams's _Dessa Rose_ and Doctorow's _Ragtime_ (especially good for discussing the differences between race and ethnicity -- the gap between Tateh's fairly easy assimilation and Coalhouse's struggle/fight) along with the Norton _New Worlds of Literature_. I really like that anthology because it has a lot of the kinds of readings you're looking for -- pieces by Gary Soto, for example, on interactions between Latinos and Asian-Americans, stories about interactions between Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans, etc. A couple of other stories not in that anthology also work well: Joanne Greenberg's "L'olam and White Shell Woman" looks at interaction between a middle-class Jewish woman and her Native-American co-workers on a Wyoming reservation; there's another story in _Imagining America_ (I'm not sure if I have the title right here) called "Thank God for the Jews," about an Indian woman who buys meat at the kosher butcher (noting the link in dietary laws as well as her process of assimilation). [NEXT Imagining America]
By the way, I think focusing on interaction makes a lot of sense -- helps us bridge the assimilation vs. separatism dichotomy.
You may have included it already under the black / white rubric, but how about Malamud's _The Tenants_? [NEXT Malamud] Not that I find it an especially pleasant read, especially under current circumstances on campus and elsewhere. But then, pleasure & comfort wouldn't exactly be the point...
Greetings to my old friends at UCLA, by the way.
Eric Murphy Selinger
I'm not sure how you are setting up the category "interracial" but it seems good to remember that at the turn of this century Jewish- gentile reltionships were often considered interracial by both sides. That being the case, you could use Israel Zangwill's 1907 play "The Melting Pot." The popular culture of the period was full of these stories. Try the Yiddish theater, for example.
On another front, there's an interesting "interracial" subplot in Sutton Griggs's 1899 novel _Imperium in Imperio_. In it, a young African-American woman commits suicide rather than marry the man she loves ( a very light mulatto lawyer, one of the central figures of the book) because she has read a book, _White Supremacy and Negro Subordination_, that has convinced her that "the intermingling of the races in sexual relationship was sapping the vital- ity of the Negro race and, in fact, was slowly but surely exterminating the race." (173) Unable to resist his appeal while she lives, but unwilling to contribute to the extinction of her people, she chooses death.
In _Blake, or The Huts of America_, Martin Delany, a "Race" man, argues by example against interracial relationships by casting mulattoes as villians and the "pure" Africans as heroic.
I think some thought should be given to 19th-century African-American attitudes to the question as distinct from more contemporary positions and tensions.
Chris Suggs email@example.com
Last semester I taught a course in "Fictions of Cultural Differences."
Some of the texts that worked well were:
Arturo Islas, *The Rain God* (treats culture clashes on the Border between Anglo, Catholic, Native communities, with special attention to issues of gender and sexuality; see also the sequel *The Migrants*)
Ishmael Reed, *Reckless Eyeball* (a satire of everyone involved in identity politics. Especially strong for the way it confronts the so-called black-Jewish question as well as the tensions between black feminists and black women writers. Guaranteed to upset everybody in productive ways. It was out of print when I used it, so I did it by xerox. Can be supplemented well with essays from Reed's *Airing Dirty Laundry*.
Bharati Mukherjee, *Jasmine* (or just about anything of hers). (Mukherjee is another writer who produces hybrid texts of culture clashes and surprising transgressions of identity politics as Indian women meet Iowa farmers and the old immigration myths come undone.)
James Welch, *Fools Crow* (an exquisitely detailed historical novel that retells Little Big Horn and other atrocities from a Native American point of view)
Gish Jen, *Typical American* (Asian American send-up of the old Ben Franklin myths)
A very good anthology of short fiction is *Imagining America,* edited by Amy Ling and Wesley Brown. Again, it has the virtue of covering an enormous range of surprising crossings of racial and ethnic boundaries and features a good range of authors. There is a companion volume of essays, many by the same fiction writers, called *Visions of America.* Both are published by Persea Press. These volumes have worked very well for me in the undergraduate classroom.
Here are SIX more responses to Richard Yarborough's request for titles
useful in a course on "interracial interactions"--especially
interactions between race combinations other than white Americans and
people of color.
Your course sounds fascinating! And if you broaden it to include drama, I would suggest Velina Hasu Houston's play _Tea_, about a group of Japanese "war brides" relocated in Kansas and their interactions with, among others, their white and black husbands. The play was published by TCG's Plays in Progress. Also, of course, Anna Deveare Smith
English Department Office: (610) 489-4111, ext. 2347
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Collegeville, PA 19426 E-mail: PSchroeder@acad.ursinus.edu
A few titles that come to mind, the first two of which are in the Heath Anthology and are very teachable: Hisaye Yamamoto's "Seventeen Syllables," in which the adolescent daughter (Japanese-American) is involved with a Chicano young man; Thomas Whitecloud's "Blue Winds Dancing," which focuses much on the contrast between Anglo and Native American culture; also, some of the included poetry by Joy Harjo and by Janice Mirikitani concerns white and Native American or white and Asian-American relationships (as cultural tensions and/or personal relationships), although I realize you said "fiction" (and, Whitecloud's work is more of an autobiographical essay, perhaps fictionalized). Other pertinent fiction are the wonderful novels of Barbara Kingsolver, esp. _Animal Dreams_ which centrally concerns a personal/romantic relationship between a white woman and a Pueblo man; also her _Pigs in Heaven_ concerns a white woman (who's a small part Native American) and her adopted, Navajo daughter and their both learning about Navajo culture and cultural differences. Hope this is helpful.
Marilyn Edelstein, English, Santa Clara U
Here's a title for you, but I think it's by a white American author about a relationship between a white narrator and several Chinese grad students. One of the students finds himself drawn to American culture and begins a relationship he doesn't fully understand with a white American woman. And then there's this fear and loathing on the part of the Chinese student directed toward American blacks. It's an interesting read, although not a great one: Watching TV with the Red Chinese, about 1990.
I don't have a copy of _The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins_ to check, but I believe _Winona_ deals with interactions between African Americans and Native Americans.
You might consider some of Faulkner's stories for another angle on interactions between Native Americans and African Americans. "Red Leaves" comes to mind.[NEXT Faulkner]
I hope you will share your syllabus with the rest of the list when you're done.
There are two anthologies of "growing up stories" that might be helpful to you. Gary Soto's--_Growing up Californian_ (I think this is the right title--it's at my office, and I am at home!) and a book I just saw at the bookstore today, _Growing up Chicano_> The stories in the Soto anthology are not all by ethnic minorities, but a great many of them are; the stories in the other anth. are all, of course, by Chicano/as. Ther reason I mention these two books is that authors looking back on their childhoods, who they grew up with, intermingled with as they grew, might provide an interesting kind of look at interracial, or interethnical relationships.
--If a search for _Growing up Californian_ prooves futile, please reach
me privately at my address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will get all the
_correct_ (!) info for you.
University of Nevada
Your subject sounds very interesting, and I's sure it is going to be a great
course to teach.
I guess by the time you see my late response, you might have got a lot of suggested titles. But I still strongly recommend to you Alma Luz Villanueva
By the way, please say "Hello" to Prof. King-Kok Cheung. Hopefully, she still remembers me, one of her TFs at Harvard.
Your subject sounds very interesting, and I's sure it is going to be a great
course to teach.
California State University, Chico
Here are the final SIX responses on this thread that were in my queue,
addressing the query for titles appropriate to a course on interracial
interactions. Thanks to all who contributed. As always, an
impressively diverse and useful set of responses.
I'm rather interested in this subject myself, since I'm writing a
dissertation for my Phd in English on the continuation of and innovation
on the trickster tradition in the works of five contemporary
African-American and Native American writers.
You might check out Leslie Marmon Silko
You might check out Leslie Marmon Silko's recent novel, "Almanac of the Dead," which depicts an uprising of indigenous and oppressed people across the US and Mexico, and looks at interrelationships between whites, blacks, Chicanos, and American Indians (besides being an excellent and very disturbing book).
Also Silko's earlier novel "Ceremony" depicts to varying degrees Laguna Pueblo veterans from the Korean War and their experiences with whites, Japanese, Japanese-Americans, intratribal relationships ("traditionals" vs. Indians who have left the Res), relationships with Mexicans/Chicanos, and relationships with other tribes--particularly Navajo. [NEXT Silko]
I also saw a book entitled "Black Indians" about a year ago which I dearly regret not buying and don't know the author's name, but it was about interrmarriage & interrelationships between African Americans and AMerican Indians.
This is what comes to me off the top of my head--I'll post more if I think of them.
Richard Yarborough's request raises interesting questions indeed. My
Ponca Indian cousin, Casey Camp-Horinek, is presently working on a
documentary with a Black/Indian woman from Los Angeles on the history of
mixed Black and Indian people in this country, a long overdue study of
which their documentary may be a good start. The Choctaw, Creek,
Seminole peoples include a great many intermixed tribal members and the
history of "freed slaves" and "Black Indians" in Oklahoma is likely to
contain many of the bads and worses of American history once looked
into. I think Faulkner is one of the few who addresses the mixture
in some way (think of THE BEAR and "Red Leaves" maybe?). In the nineteenth
century after slave importing was stopped Indian women might be kidnapped and taken south for
breeding purposes, I believe. Civil War fights in Oklahoma (Indian
Territory) split the slaveholding Indians from the North-supporters. I
don't know any novels or books that go directly at this complex matter.
I only mention things at the edge of course-consciousness when I am
trying to teach American Indian literature.
And best regards, Richard--the conference in Ann Arbor which Steve Sumida and others convened was a most enjoyable one and I hope your work since then has gone well.
You probably already have Kingston's _Tripmaster Monkey_ (which begins with Wittman Ah Sing consciously imitating a shuck and jive, and ends with a utopian discourse on race).
What about Rudolfo Anaya's lyrical _Bless Me, Ultima_? It's set in a Southwestern Mex-Am community which has minimal interactions with the Anglo world, but there's a strong plot element involving the dual Spanish/Indian spiritual heritage of that community. (It also teaches well.) Likewise, Ana Castillo's works (_So Far From God_, the more polemical _Mixquiahuala Letters_, and the disturbing _Sapagonia_) focus on the confrontation of Anglo and Latino communal values (you don't say exactly how you mean "race": who counts?).
Going back a ways, Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton's recently republished novel, _The Squatter and the Don_ (1885), dramatizes the dispossession of the Spanish-speaking californios following the Mexican War from a perspective that students are very unlikely to have been exposed to. While Ruiz de Burton explicitly accuses the US Government of racial bias against citizens of Mexican descent, her "solution" to that assumed readerly prejudice is problematic: she makes all the californios white (they "pass" for Spanish in New York high society), denigrates Indians, and makes any racial mixing between the two groups invisible. Nonetheless, those are all suggestive points for discussion. Unfortunately, it's a rather long book-- I just finished teaching it for the first time, and I have to confess it got mixed reviews from the class. If anyone has comments or suggestions on that novel-- or on teaching constructions of "race" in Latino texts in general, my preoccupation of the moment-- I'd love to have an exchange of ideas.
-Kirsten Silva Gruesz
College of William & Mary
How about Edward Rivera's autobiography, _Family Installments: Memories of Growing up Hispanic_? He has a chapter called "In Black Turf" that deals specifically with being Puerto Rican in the context of a New York adolescent community that includes blacks as well as whites, hispanics, Asians, etc, and the book overall draws boundaries in interesting places, using class, generation, and especially religion to set communities and people apart from one another.
There is a lot of Jewish American literature that shows the interaction
between Jews and African Americans.
Check out Bernard Malmud
Check out Bernard Malmud's work--especially his short story "The Jewbird," and his novel THE TENANTS. Also, Tillie Olsen's short story "O Yes!" is a good African American-Jewish American story. If you would like to broaden your focus to the interaction between peoples of color who are not African American, you might also look to the great scene in Leslie Silko's CEREMONY where Tayo confronts Japanese Americans who are on their way home from internment camps, and the wonderful short story "An American in New York" by Leanne Howe which shows the interaction between a Native American woman and the various ethnicities present in New York (the story appears in Paula Gunn Allen's collection SPIDER WOMAN'S GRANDDAUGHTERS).
Good luck with your study!
BGSU, Bowling Green, OH
With regard to interracial interactions in American fiction, you might look at my study of miscegenation in 19th century American novels: AMALGAMATION!: RACE, SEX, AND RHETORIC IN THE NINETEENTH- CENTURY AMERICAN NOVEL, Greenwood Press, 1985.
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