Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Honors College, College of Arts and Science Honors
Dr. Helen Scott
Dr. Sarah Turner
Dr. Pablo Bose
myths about immigration, American exceptionalism, mimesis, structural class inequality, mainstream US media
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.
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Langley, Olivia M., "Fictions of Belonging: "New Arrival Literature" and Contemporary Discourse on U.S. Immigration" (2017). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 155.