Multiculturalism and Literature

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What is multiculturalism in American Literature in regard to the themes, problems, ethnic groups of writers, and so on?

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Multiculturalism in literature is the attempt to show the ethnic diversity in the American experience. It came to life in the twentieth century but especially sprang to prominence in the second half of the twentieth century.

In the nineteenth century, American literature was primarily defined by white (primarily British) writers attempting to forge an American identity that was white and Anglo-Saxon, based on European culture but differing from it in being more democratic, more assertively masculine, and more individualistic. In the latter half of the century, with concern about the "invasion" of immigrant "hordes" from southern and eastern Europe, an aggressively white middle-brow literature that celebrated colonialism and the American Revolution and associated American history with white "purity" began to emerge, as did a nostalgic literature painting southern slavery with soft hues as a benign institution.

In the twentieth century, multiculturalism began to gather steam and push back. Integral to multicultural literature is the idea that people of other cultures be allowed to tell their own story in their own voice, and this began to happen. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, for example, is an early instance of multiculturalism: black writers began to create their own narratives instead of being forced to rely on whites to tell their story for them. After World War II, and especially from the 1960s onward, an explosion of multicultural literature emerged, as African Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, Irish Americans, Indian Americans, and other demographics began to write of their own experiences. Writers that come to mind include Native American Sherman Alexie and Chinese American Amy Tan. Themes of multicultural literature often include the difficulties of assimilating to the dominant culture, the harm caused by prejudice, and the conflicts between native and dominant cultures. This writing is important, as it testifies to the many strands of Americanism that are a rich part of our culture.

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Multiculturalism is the inclusion of individuals from diverse cultures or backgrounds. In regard to literature, it is the writing of stories that involve multi-ethnic or multicultural characters. Being that America is “the melting pot” of cultures, it makes sense for American literature to have a preponderance of multiculturalism in its writings.

Ethnically, American authors come from all sorts of backgrounds. Initially, these authors were primarily of western European descent, but as the nation has grown, authors of Native American, Latin American, Arabic, Indian, and Asian descent have started to become more prominent. Typically, these authors attempt to tackle the ideas of inclusivity and identity in America—a place which is known for mixing every identity together as well as people trying hard to maintain a sense of their cultural origins. Thematically, the ideas of inclusion and identity are some of the most prominent in multicultural literature.

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Multiculturalism is the way in which different authors maintain their identity through their work while educating others on their cultural ideas.

In the beginning, Multiculturalism was denoted (inaccurately) as a sort of "melting pot." Unfortunately, the use of this term tended to force people to adhere to one specific set of cultural rules. True multiculturalism allows people to raise up who they are, where they came from, and their ideologies (in order for acceptance).

That being said, while different, all Multiculturalists desire the same thing: acceptance. Therefore, their texts speak to similar things: themes and conflicts (problems). The most common theme of Multicultural texts is illustrated and lifted up for the education of readers on the acceptance of ideologies outside of their own. The importance of this is that narrow-minded supremacists need to be enlightened on how other races and groups need to have the same rights as those who shun and are prejudiced against them.

The Multicultural movement, therefore, is important based upon one fact: acceptance of cultures, races, and ideologies outside of the globalized thought.

Themes common to Multiculturalists' texts are one which speak to the alienation and isolation by those who do not recognize the minority as relevant. The theme, which resonates through conflict, proves to be one which identifies a search for acceptance as one is (or a group is). The conflicts normally speak to the issues which have arisen based upon ignorance and fear of the unknown for those who cannot identify or relate to those unlike themselves.

The ethnic groups of Multiculturalists in America is great. Simply, any writer speaking out for their right to belong, have the same rights as the majority (White), and educate on their culture would be considered a Multiculturalist.

Examples of Multicultural authors would be African American authors, American Indian authors, and any other authors who are (basically) not of white descent.

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