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American Ethnic Literature


AmericanEthnic Literature

Theimportance of literary works cannot be gainsaid as far as the growthand development of societies is concerned. Indeed, literary workshave been credited with shaping societies and inspiring varied socialchanges. This is especially considering that a large number ofliterary works are written in an effort to outline the ills thatplague the societies within which the authors live, as well asinspire ideas on how these negative aspects can be eliminated orsubstituted with positive ones. In most cases, literary works carry aradical message albeit camouflaged using sarcasm and irony. Needlessto say, there are variations in the types of literary works that havebeen undertaken in the contemporary human society, as well as themagnitude of their influence on the same. However, ethnic literaturecomes as one of the most fundamental types of literary works as faras shaping the American society is concerned.

Americanethnic literature is defined as the body of literary works that iswritten by individuals that are from a distinctive religion, languageor culture. It is not any different from other forms of literatureexcept for the fact that it incorporates ethnic references. However,the focus of attention should be on the ethnicity that is revealed inthe textual references.

Importanceof ethnic literature and its influences

AmericanEthnic literature comes as one of the most fundamental forms ofliterary works. Its key importance resides in its capacity to outlinethe plight of the marginalized communities, which were mostly theminority. In most cases, ethnic literary works was written in aneffort to speak out or bring to the fore the issues that affected thesocieties from which the authors emanated. It is worth noting thatthe minorities usually did not have avenues through which their voicecould be heard or their concerns addressed. This void was primarilyfilled up by ethnic literature.

Onthe same note, it goes without saying that ethnic literary works wereprimarily influenced by the experiences of the authors in theirsocieties. This was the case for Yusef Komunyakaa, whose literaryworks were primarily influenced by the experiences of the environmentwithin which he lived as a child. Komunyakaa underlines the horriblenature of Bogalusa, the place where he was born and brought up. Hisexperiences, however, started after getting out of Bogalusa andjoining the army. He went to Vietnam in 1969 where he ended up beinga combat reporter for SouthernCross,the Army newspaper. When he finally started writing after leavingVietnam, he initially concentrated on writing poems about Bogalusa.Indeed, it was not until 14 years later that he started writing abouthis Vietnam experience, which was essentially the writing thatbrought him national and international recognition (Maitino&ampPeck, 1996).

Onthe same note, some forms of ethnic literature were influenced byother literary works composed in the past. This was the case forMaxine Hong Kingstone, who has stated that her literary works wereprimarily influenced by the writings of other writers such as WilliamCarlos Williams and Walt Whitman (Maitino&ampPeck, 1996).The prior works usually incorporated freedom and radical rhythm thatwas not yet to be seen in prior works. In instances where Kingstonwas experiencing low points in her life, Virginia Woolf’s workswould get her moving again especially considering that the laterusually broke through the limitations pertaining to culture, genderand time (Maitino&ampPeck, 1996).

Influenceof on Education and Politics

Theinfluence of American ethnic literary works was mainly felt in thefield of politics and education. This is especially considering thatpolitics revolves around determination of individuals who get certainthings in a certain manner. In most cases, American ethnic literaturepaid attention to the inequalities that existed between theminorities and dominant groups in the society.

Oneof the key impacts of ethnic literature revolves around triggeringthe civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s. This is especiallyconsidering that a large number of literary works primarilyconcentrated on informing the minority groups about their rights andasking them or rather persuading them to take charge of their livesand demand those entitlements. In essence, American ethnic literatureallowed for enhanced participation of individuals from minoritygroups in matters pertaining to politics. It was well acknowledgedthat politics were the avenues through which they could effectchanges on policies, rules and regulations that guided interactionsbetween human beings (Franco,2006).In this case, minority groups, after being made aware of their rightsand influenced upon to demand them started seeking elective officesin an effort to change laws that seemed detrimental to their welfare.

Onthe same note, ethnic literary works acknowledged that the maindisparity between minority groups and the dominant ones revolvedaround economic wealth. This was especially considering that a largeproportion of individuals in the dominant groups were considerablymore educated than those in the minority groups. In this case,American ethnic literature influenced individuals to pursue educationas this was the only way in which they could emancipate themselvesfrom mental slavery. Indeed, this was the only way in which theycould participate in decision-making on national issues, therebyallowing them to compete on equal grounds with the dominant groups.

Responseof American Literature on Explicitly Discussed Elements

Asstated earlier, the participation of minority groups in the politicsof United States has always been limited or the preserve of dominantgroups. This was seen as the key factor that accounted fordisparities between the economic wellbeing of minorities and dominantgroups in particular countries (Franco,2006).Nevertheless, enormous volumes of American ethnic literatureadvocated for the elimination of restrictions that hindered a largeproportion of minority groups from taking part in politics. Forinstance, participation of minority groups in voting was primarily apreserve of the dominant groups (Franco,2006).However, ethnic literature explored the possibility of participationof minorities in these activities especially considering that theywere also subject to them. A case in point is Gwendolyn Brooks’first poetry collection named “AStreet in Bronzeville”. Thiscollection examines or reflects on the reality pertaining tooppression in urban blacks’ lives and how they can seek moreparticipation in the political arena.

Responseto Technology

Nevertheless,one of the most unexplored elements in the American ethnic literatureis technology or its implications on the society. It was wellacknowledged that technological advancement was one of the keydriving forces of economies. However, a large number of Americanethnic literatures underlined the fact that technology seemed to bedriving minorities down as far as economic wellbeing is concerned.Indeed, they rued the fact that a simple machine could result in thelaying off of even more than 10 people (Franco,2006).However, this literature acknowledged that technology was only goingto be included even more, in which case they vouched for provisionsof more lessons to minorities so that they can participate in theiruse and crafting.


Franco,D. J. (2006).&nbspEthnicAmerican literature: Comparing Chicano, Jewish, and African Americanwriting.Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Maitino,J. R., &amp Peck, D. R. (1996).&nbspTeachingAmerican ethnic literatures: Nineteen essays.Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.