Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

3: Introduction- Self-Identity and Resistance

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    ( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\)

    \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\)

    \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\)

    \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorA}[1]{\vec{#1}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorAt}[1]{\vec{\text{#1}}}      % arrow\)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorB}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorC}[1]{\textbf{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorD}[1]{\overrightarrow{#1}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectorDt}[1]{\overrightarrow{\text{#1}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vectE}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash{\mathbf {#1}}}} \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \)

    \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)

    \(\newcommand{\avec}{\mathbf a}\) \(\newcommand{\bvec}{\mathbf b}\) \(\newcommand{\cvec}{\mathbf c}\) \(\newcommand{\dvec}{\mathbf d}\) \(\newcommand{\dtil}{\widetilde{\mathbf d}}\) \(\newcommand{\evec}{\mathbf e}\) \(\newcommand{\fvec}{\mathbf f}\) \(\newcommand{\nvec}{\mathbf n}\) \(\newcommand{\pvec}{\mathbf p}\) \(\newcommand{\qvec}{\mathbf q}\) \(\newcommand{\svec}{\mathbf s}\) \(\newcommand{\tvec}{\mathbf t}\) \(\newcommand{\uvec}{\mathbf u}\) \(\newcommand{\vvec}{\mathbf v}\) \(\newcommand{\wvec}{\mathbf w}\) \(\newcommand{\xvec}{\mathbf x}\) \(\newcommand{\yvec}{\mathbf y}\) \(\newcommand{\zvec}{\mathbf z}\) \(\newcommand{\rvec}{\mathbf r}\) \(\newcommand{\mvec}{\mathbf m}\) \(\newcommand{\zerovec}{\mathbf 0}\) \(\newcommand{\onevec}{\mathbf 1}\) \(\newcommand{\real}{\mathbb R}\) \(\newcommand{\twovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\ctwovec}[2]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\threevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cthreevec}[3]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfourvec}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\fivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{r}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\cfivevec}[5]{\left[\begin{array}{c}#1 \\ #2 \\ #3 \\ #4 \\ #5 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\mattwo}[4]{\left[\begin{array}{rr}#1 \amp #2 \\ #3 \amp #4 \\ \end{array}\right]}\) \(\newcommand{\laspan}[1]{\text{Span}\{#1\}}\) \(\newcommand{\bcal}{\cal B}\) \(\newcommand{\ccal}{\cal C}\) \(\newcommand{\scal}{\cal S}\) \(\newcommand{\wcal}{\cal W}\) \(\newcommand{\ecal}{\cal E}\) \(\newcommand{\coords}[2]{\left\{#1\right\}_{#2}}\) \(\newcommand{\gray}[1]{\color{gray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\lgray}[1]{\color{lightgray}{#1}}\) \(\newcommand{\rank}{\operatorname{rank}}\) \(\newcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\col}{\text{Col}}\) \(\renewcommand{\row}{\text{Row}}\) \(\newcommand{\nul}{\text{Nul}}\) \(\newcommand{\var}{\text{Var}}\) \(\newcommand{\corr}{\text{corr}}\) \(\newcommand{\len}[1]{\left|#1\right|}\) \(\newcommand{\bbar}{\overline{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bhat}{\widehat{\bvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\bperp}{\bvec^\perp}\) \(\newcommand{\xhat}{\widehat{\xvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\vhat}{\widehat{\vvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\uhat}{\widehat{\uvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\what}{\widehat{\wvec}}\) \(\newcommand{\Sighat}{\widehat{\Sigma}}\) \(\newcommand{\lt}{<}\) \(\newcommand{\gt}{>}\) \(\newcommand{\amp}{&}\) \(\definecolor{fillinmathshade}{gray}{0.9}\)

    Introduction: Self-Identity & Resistance

    Danielle Varner, Ketia Viel, Alice Lemieux, and Shianne Harewood

    This anthology was written by Dr. Snow’s “Ethnic American Literature” class at Fitchburg State for the Fall 2022 semester. As written in already existing anthologies, the purpose of anthologies such as the one we’ve written is to educate and expose the readers to new ideas and understandings. In the case of this anthology, we are giving voice to multiple ethnic American authors, as opposed to some already existing anthologies which are dominated by white authors. As written in the introduction of an anthology of black literature, Black American Writers Past and Present, this anthology “Comes as a partial cure for a 400-year wave of literary amnesia” (Rush xiii). It’s impossible to remember everything that has ever been written and it is just as hard to remember everything that has ever happened to an individual or group of people. In addition to this, there may be things that have never been written about perhaps because it was too hard to write about or the author didn’t know how to go about it. It can be hard to write about difficult topics. Still, by writing about these difficult topics and having these conversations, knowledge can be shared among a large group of people. This is the purpose of our class anthology. By writing about our chosen themes of self-identity and resistance, there will be knowledge shared among the student authors and anyone else who views the anthology. The hope is that the discussion of these multiethnic American authors and stories will spark important conversations.

    The overall concept of multiethnic American literature is just reliving history from a narrative perspective. Through the authors in this collection, you can get a sense of persecution, loneliness, and the notion of wanting to be seen and heard. There is a sense of self-identity and resistance that is represented through these pieces of writing. We have gathered different pieces of writing to see different perspectives of different backgrounds. This anthology is written by students that have been impacted by powerful writers that they feel should get some extra light shined on.

    What is Ethnic American Literature?

    The background of ethnic American literature comes from the curiosity of people not hearing people of color's voices and representation in the classroom growing up in middle and high school. This course gives people the chance to understand other people’s way of thinking and put themselves in other people’s shoes regarding what they went through in their life. It is easy to talk about all the good things that have happened in this world but it is a tough conversation to have when we talk about things like slavery, and this is where the course ethnic American literature comes in handy. This anthology opens up people’s minds but it also gives a safe place for people to express how they truly feel about a piece of writing and how they can relate to it or not.

    In school you often learn about activists and how they forced a change to happen. For example, Martin Luther King Junior is known by many people. He is taught in schools starting at a young age because he made history on many occasions changing the political view of African Americans and Americans with other ethnic backgrounds. Even though most people learn about him in history class there are many pieces of his history left out. This anthology helps us dig deeper and get to know more about him and people who made similar impacts on the world.

    Looking at literature in addition to history brings to light other aspects of people’s lives that may not have been looked at otherwise. People should be motivated to understand more than what is presented to them in a history textbook. The pieces of literature that are presented in this anthology bring this motivation in students forward. The pieces of writing that will be looked at throughout this whole anthology give you insight into people's upbringing from 1865-1965.

    During this time there was a lot of history between slavery, rights, the civil war, the declaration of independence, the assassination of many important people in the country, riots, and invasions. Being able to go back and look at what has happened and look at other people's points of view help students, and people understand more in-depth. For example, another person in history that should be looked at in literature and not just history is Malcolm X’s autobiography which came out in October 1965. Malcolm was an American Muslim minister and a human rights activist during the civil rights movement. What we learn about in history class is that he was a vocal advocate for black empowerment. But if we look at his life from a literary point of view we will get to know the man that is behind the name Malcolm X. Being able to look at his life as a literary point we get feelings we get the truth, the hustle, the low hard part in life and the powerful high parts. Starting low and in a hard place you can either accept and stay in there or you can rise and make something of yourself and this autobiography shows just that.

    Self-identity and Resistance

    This collection of multiethnic American authors allow us to see the world through different perspectives from anywhere in the world at any given time. These writers all have new and unique experiences of their lives, their travels, the changes and the struggles. History is best recorded when different perspectives are included. Without the introduction of different people, how can a full story be perceived? How can the truth be revealed and a sense of unity form among the view of people? If these perspectives are hidden in the shadows then only a single part of history remains intact while the rest of history gets tossed away soon to be forgotten. Literature plays this role of historian extremely well, it reaches into what a person truly feels and allows them to express their feelings and not to mention how long literature prevails throughout history in comparison to film, photography and other forms. One of the only forms of expression that stretches as long is art but with that comes a sense of obscurity and one cannot discount that the art might mean one thing over another. America is described as a melting pot of cultures, yet when things melt they mix together and this is not how history is truly seen. American history is mostly devoted to the white settlers who came across the Atlantic Ocean. Every now and then a sprinkle of a culture is thrown in but it seems as though these perspectives are brought in when they are relevant to the stories already being portrayed. The lack of known history of those with a different background, experiences, and vices ruins history as those who are pushed down and have their lives hidden, they may call America home but they do not feel as though the history of this home is also built upon their backs and what they brought to the future.

    If the literature of multiethnic Americans is shown to the world then a more structured interpretation can be obtained of true history. In this anthology we work to bring a higher awareness to these stories. We work to include many perspectives from around the world, with different stories, and in different parts of the country. The scope of multiethnic American literature is too extensive to include solely in one anthology so we set a timeframe of 1860s-1960s. This time brings events that caused tragedies such as the end of the Civil War, the Trail of Tears, Asian internment camps, and the Civil Rights movement. Despite all the tragedies going on this time was also a moment when the presence of these people rapidly grew which acts a secondary reasoning for the timeframe of the anthology.

    The authors chosen for the anthology all show themes of self identity and resistance in their work. People such as Jesús Colón use self identity to show that groups of people are their own and have beliefs, goals, and purposes unique to themselves and that these are pushed down by others with more power and influence and those with different thoughts get shoved aside or are barely even seen in the overall United States. However some authors such as Toni Morrison show self identity in a way that is more so that every person is an individual and will clash with others in large or small situations. Morrison more focuses on how self identity will change, adapt, and can be manipulated by those who influence that person. A final perspective would be that of Hong Kingston focusing more on a struggle between oneself on what their own self identity is which persists among many authors living in countries other than where they were born. Many authors also focus on the theme of resistance. Jesús Colón and James Baldwin tackle this in different ways, while Colón focuses more on the physical retaliation aspect of fighting back as resistance to outer forces, Baldwin pushes this more to peace saying that one should only spread love not hate. Some also stray from this duality, such as Lorainne Hansberry using joy as a form of resistance as if to push someone off your shoulder rather than allow them to drag you down. All of the authors featured in our Compact Anthology use unique perspectives and all of their past experiences to craft and formulate a story to not only pull readers in but to get across a message.

    A Compact Anthology For and By Students

    Throughout this course, we have focused on Hispanic, Native American, black, and women writers. This anthology is going to go into specific detail about how different authors with different backgrounds are connected with a few themes, and how those voices have been silenced for too long. The author that will be looked at are Hong Kingston, Silko, Toni Morrison, Lorraine Hansberry, Wilson, Baldwin, Colón and Anzaldúa. Focusing on the audience that needs to be reached whether that is high schoolers, professors, parents, or people in general. They all recognize that being themselves either breaks or elevates them up, which is why we use the term "self identity." The authors you will read about are from the oppressed group, the group that was not seen or heard, and their pieces demonstrate the theme of suffering and resistance because of the time period in which they were raised or wrote them. The chapters are separated by author and organized according to their date of birth. We made this decision in order to show the progression of events happening in the world at the time of their writing and how it impacted different groups.

    James Baldwin is an exceptional African American writer. Baldwin lived from 1924 to 1987 and was raised in Harlem, New York. Baldwin writes in a highly precise and succinct manner. In pieces like "Fire Next Time," he shows his background, the obstacles of being black, and how he had to embrace his self-identity. Reading Baldwin's writings can give you a feel of the racial divide between black and white people during the time he was writing his pieces, as well as an idea of what a resolution for white and black people would look like.

    Anzaldúa is a unique novelist who is regarded an ethnic American writer. Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa is well-known for her expertise in queer theory and feminist theory. Anzaldúa was born on September 26, 1942, in Texas, and died on May 15, 2004 in California. Her work is well-known for bringing the LGBTQ concept to Latino society. Although many civilizations did not, Anzaldúa provided possibilities for many lesbians and queers to publicly disclose their self-identity.

    One of the voices in American ethnic writing is the Puerto Rican author Jesus Colon. On January 20, 1901, Colon was born; he died on May 14, 1974. Through Colons' articles, he discusses his experiences as a Puerto Rican living in New York. Through his works, you can also see how his sense of self in Puerto Rico and America are very different from one another. In Puerto Rico, it wasn't necessary to convince people that you were deserving of their company, whereas in America, he had to fight against negative emotions and missed out on opportunities because of his skin color.

    Jesús Colón, a Puerto Rican novelist, is one of the voices in American ethnic writing. Colón was born on January 20, 1901, and died on May 14, 1974. Colón's essays explore his experiences as a Puerto Rican residing in New York. His paintings also demonstrate how his concept of self in Puerto Rico and America differ significantly. In Puerto Rico, you didn't have to persuade people that you were worthy of their business, however in America, he had to combat negative feelings and missed out on possibilities because of his complexion.

    Asian-American author Maxine Hong Kingston writes novels. Kingston was born in California in 1940, and she is still alive. Her stories all convey the idea of understanding one's purpose and being able to accomplish what one wants rather than deciding one's own choices. Her stories also highlight being a voice for the voiceless women.

    Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American ethnic writer from the Laguna Pueblo tribe. She was born on March 5, 1948, in New Mexico, and has Anglo American, Mexican, and Laguna Pueblo ancestry. She is well-known for her short stories and poetry, which demonstrate her innovative and astute literary abilities. Silko's works do, in subtle ways, convey what it's like to be a Native American; it's more about her portraying Native American culture than it is about expressing the oppression they face because of their heritage. Silko's stories reflect her idea of a powerful woman, as well as the importance of cultural self-identity.

    Toni Morrison is an African-American writer who was born on February 18, 1931 and died on August 5, 2019. According to the National Women's History Museum, Morrison is "the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Morrison's work has inspired a generation of writers to follow in her footsteps." Morrison's writing approach is primarily focused on the cultural influences of African American communities. Her word choice is also vivid and direct, but this is done to highlight her readers the reality of being African American.

    Lorraine Hansberry is a writer of African American descent who lived from May 19, 1930 to January 12, 1965. According to the National Women's Hall of Fame, "Lorraine Hansberry authored A Raisin in the Sun, becoming the first Black woman to have a Broadway show produced, the first Black playwright and youngest American to receive the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play (1959), and the first Black American to win the Drama Desk Award." Hansberry's writings and exhibits are straightforward in conveying her ideas, and she values sociocultural craft.

    August Wilson, also known as Fredrick August Kittle, was born in Pennsylvania on April 27, 1945 and died on October 2, 2005. He is most recognized for his groundbreaking cycle of ten plays chronicling the African-American experience in the twentieth century. Wilson's plays are realistic and utilize African American dialect. His plays also include almost entirely black characters.

    Works Cited

    Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Toni Morrison.” The National Women’s History Museum, 2019. Accessed 11 Dec. 2022

    “11 Things You Should Know About August Wilson - the Greene Space.” 11 Things You Should Know About August Wilson - the Greene Space, 2022.

    “Hansberry, Lorraine - National Women’s Hall of Fame.” The National Women’s Hall of Fame, Accessed 11 Dec. 2022.

    Rush, Theressa Gunnels, et al. Black American Writers Past and Present: A Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary. 1975.

    3: Introduction- Self-Identity and Resistance is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?