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New Strangers in Paradise

New Strangers in Paradise: The Immigrant Experience and Contemporary American Fiction

Gilbert H. Muller
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    New Strangers in Paradise
    Book Description:

    New Strangers in Paradiseoffers the first in-depth account of the ways in which contemporary American fiction has been shaped by the successive generations of immigrants to reach U.S. shores. Gilbert Muller reveals how the intersections of peoples, regions, and competing cultural histories have remade the American cultural landscape in the aftermath of World War II.

    Muller focuses on the literature of Holocaust survivors, Chicanos, Latinos, African Caribbeans, and Asian Americans. In the quest for a new identity, each of these groups seeks the American dream and rewrites the story of what it means to be an American.New Strangers in Paradiseexplores the psychology of uprooted peoples and the relations of culture and power, addressing issues of race and ethnicity, multiculturalism and pluralism, and national and international conflicts.

    Examining the groups of immigrants in the cultural and historical context both of America and of the lands from which they originated, Muller argues that this "fourth wave" of immigration has led to a creative flowering in modern fiction. The book offers a fresh perspective on the writings of Vladimir Nabokov, Sual Bellow, William Styron, Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, Oscar Hijuelos, Jamaica Kincaid, Bharati Mukherjee, Rudolfo Anaya, and many others.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5013-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Promised Land: Postwar Fiction and the Immigrant Experience
    (pp. 1-26)

    Fiction and history in the era after World War II are interlocking journeys by immigrants to America’s shores. This immigrant tide in contemporary American fiction is global, flowing across diasporas, borders, and postcolonial terrains. From the Holocaust to the Haitian and Cuban boatlifts, many of the departures and arrivals are reflections of recent historical traumas, creating in fiction what Bharati Mukherjee terms “odysseys of dislocation” (Woodford 2). Immigration for America’s short story writers and novelists today is the representation of radically new desires by the world’s uprooted peoples, an allegory chronicling the evolution of a multicultural nation-state.

    The postwar strangers...

  5. 2 Haunted by the Holocaust: Displaced Persons and the American Dream
    (pp. 27-58)

    Holocaust survivors in postwar American fiction are displaced persons estranged from all national narratives. Like the protagonist in Saul Bellow’sMr. Sammler’s Planet,they meditate on the relationship between the Earth, the Moon, and Planet Auschwitz. And if Auschwitz, as Theodor Adorno suggests, is the central event of our age, this primal catastrophe, which ushers in the postwar era, separates and estranges the survivors of the Holocaust from the myths of the American nation. The uprooted souls depicted in the fiction of Bellow, Singer, Styron, Malamud and other contemporary American writers are haunted by the Holocaust, unable to embrace the...

  6. 3 Migrant Souls: The Chicano Quest for National Identity
    (pp. 59-92)

    Epochal changes in United States immigration policy wrought by the Second World War affected not only those Europeans fortunate enough to escape the ashes of the Holocaust and journey to a new nation as refugees and displaced persons, but also the waves of Mexican immigrants who flowed north across the Rio Grande border asbraceros—yet another new immigration category—to support the American war effort. Admittedly, the “imaginative geography” of Mexican Americans, to appropriate a phrase from Edward Said’sOrientalism(59), differs radically from the political and cultural domain of those Holocaust survivors who fourid refuge in America. Nevertheless,...

  7. 4 Metropolitan Dreams: Latino Voyagers from the Caribbean
    (pp. 93-138)

    The American drive for empire that functions as the ideological and geopolitical backdrop of much Chicano fiction also serves as a postcolonial motif in contemporary novels and short stories exploring Latino emigration from the Caribbean to the United States. Numerous writers—Julia Alvarez, Oscar Hijuelos, Christina Garcia, and Judith Ortiz Cofer among them—share a vision of migration to American shores that is rooted in the imperial history of the hemisphere—the tradition of conquest and colonization experienced by the islands of the Caribbean. The postwar arrival of these Hispanic voyagers from the Caribbean at the metropolitan centers of America,...

  8. 5 Middle Passage: The African-Caribbean Diaspora
    (pp. 139-170)

    Even as contemporary conditions precipitated a flood of peoples from the Spanish-speaking islands of the Caribbean to the American mainland, a stream of English-speaking immigrants from the West Indies—a parallel diasporic movement—flowed to both Great Britain and the United States. These Hispanic and Commonwealth migratory streams are linked by the legacies of colonial history or what the historian Gordon Lewis (1983) describes as an “agrosocial system of slavery developed in its fullest and most harsh form” (2). Yet the formation of an AfricanCaribbean immigrant identity rooted in the history of slavery is a subject largely absent from or...

  9. 6 Gold Mountains: The Asian-American Odyssey
    (pp. 171-216)

    Contributing to the syncretic, hybrid birth of a new American nation have been those postwar immigrants and sojourners from the Pacific Rim and a Greater Asia, stretching across China to the Indian subcontinent and beyond to the Middle East. These strangers from distant shores, to borrow a fine phrase coined by the Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan in his autobiographicalAmerica Is in the Heart,are part of a long and varied chain in the history of American immigration. From the intrepid Chinese miners who ventured to California in the 1850s—gam saan haakor “travelers to the Gold Mountain”—to...

  10. 7 Searching for America
    (pp. 217-238)

    “This is an American story of the late twentieth century;” writes Russell Banks in the invocation toContinental Drift,a brilliant canonical novel pitting migrants against immigrants within the complex, unfinished narrative of the nation. At the end of the century, as Banks and the numerous writers treated in this study assert, a new nation is being called into existence, even as Banks would call into being theHaitian vaudou loasto help him “mouth” his tale. The old Muses, Eurocentric and Homeric, are still with us, but they can no longer capture fully this new national condition, this emerging...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-256)
  12. Index
    (pp. 257-270)