What qualities and elements should a text have to be considered multicultural?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Multiculturalism is a modern term applied to literature written by an unbiased author. Enotes defines this term: 

The word multiculturalism is often used by scholars and popular writers to indicate that a variety of cultures that maintain their differences within a social group is functional for the total group.

More positive about differences than pluralism, as in the older concept of "melting pot," multiculturalism is an ideology in which differences are clearly recognized and appreciated for their own value to society. Thus, multiculturalism gives value to diversity of race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, age, socio-economic differences, mental and physical differences.

Here is a list of elements that may be included in a multicultural literary American work as defined by the Maryland State Department of Education:

  1. Elderly people [those 65 or older]
  2. Disabled people [mentally and/or physically]
  3. Females
  4. People who are non-heterosexual or trans-gender
  5. People who are non-Christian
  6. People who are on or below the poverty level
  7. People who are non-white
  8. People who are not of Western European ethnicity
  9. People who have not been born in the U.S.

Harper Lee's American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird is certainly an example of a literary work that contain some multiculturalism since Atticus Finch teaches his children to perceive everyone fairly, explaining that no one understands a person until he or she

...considers things from his point of view--until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. 

Included among the characters of this novel are those outside the margin of Maycomb: a mentally "strange" Boo Radley, a socially marginalized Dolphus Raymond and his racially-mixed children, the old Miss Maudie Atkinson and Mrs. Dubose, the poor Walter Cunningham, the black Tom Robinson,