Date of Completion

2017

Document Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

English

Type of Thesis

Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors

First Advisor

Dr. Helen Scott

Second Advisor

Dr. Sarah Turner

Third Advisor

Dr. Pablo Bose

Keywords

myths about immigration, American exceptionalism, mimesis, structural class inequality, mainstream US media

Abstract

In the past two decades, “New Arrival Literature” has generated wide acclaim and a rich body of literary criticism. This genre of literature, written by immigrants who have themselves migrated, is becoming increasingly popular in a time of dominant currents of anti-immigration sentiment. My thesis explores this genre of fiction in the context of contemporary debates on immigration in the United States. In particular, this paper looks at three dominant myths about U.S. immigrants— that they drain the economy, are unwilling to assimilate, and bring crime. The novels in my study— Americanah (2013) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Need New Names (2013) by NoViolet Bulawayo, Claire of the Sea Light (2013) by Edwidge Danticat, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008) by Junot Díaz, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (2009) by Mohja Kahf, and The Namesake (2003) by Jhumpa Lahiri— offer more holistic narratives about immigration and supplement material facts about its impact on the United States. Placing these novels in their socio-historical contexts, I explore the diverse immigrant experience and restore complexity to the oversimplified debate. My thesis also reveals how reductive, anti-immigrant stereotypes are part of the broader myth of “American Exceptionalism.” These authors, through their lived experiences and works of fiction, counter these myths by offering more human and complex narratives of migration.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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