Emigration and Immigration in Literature

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Dr. Richard J. Lane (essay date 2002)

SOURCE: Lane, Dr. Richard J. “An Analysis of the Literature of the U.S. Immigrant Experience.” In Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. 162, edited by Tom Burns and Jeffrey W. Hunter. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group, 2002.

[In the following essay, Lane examines the history and diversity of literature written by authors who immigrated to the United States, focusing on the unique ethnic attributes and perspectives that the various immigrant groups have brought to the body of American literature.]


A basic question needs to be asked at the outset: why did so many people emigrate to the Unites States of America? One simple answer is that many people were driven from, or decided to leave, their countries of origin either for economic reasons (they lived in poverty or could see no future for themselves at home) or because of political, religious and/or racial persecution. America is a land of immigrants: they are the driving force of the economy, bringing intense ambition, a hunger to better oneself, a willingness to work, and most of all a relentless self-motivation that can be expressed in diverse ways, from the results of raw labor to those of education and cultural expression. The industries of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century America needed a vast labor force who would work for relatively low wages (although these wages need to be put into the context of lands left behind, where poverty and even lower incomes were often the norm). Many of these industries are no longer essential today, being replaced by cheaper production elsewhere in the Developing World or having simply been superseded by the importance to the US economy of more advanced technologies such as the production of computer software. But for a time, it was so-called primary industries such as the manufacture of steel and the associated consumer products that were of importance. This historical phase, known as the Industrial Revolution, was responsible for worldwide shifts in people's modes of behaviour and existence. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution was responsible for the rapid acceleration of labor movement or migration from rural environments to the expanding manufacturing cities. Working conditions were appalling, with infant or child workers, unhealthy and dangerous repetitive working conditions and unsanitary homes. As the famous British writer George Orwell notes while exploring the industrial towns of Northern England, shortages of even the worse houses was also a problem: “… that is the central fact about housing in the industrial areas: not that the houses are poky and ugly, and insanitary and comfortless, or that they are distributed in incredibly filthy slums around belching foundries and stinking canals and slag-heaps that deluge them with sulphurous smoke … but simply that there are not enough houses to go round.”1 Industrialization in European countries may have lead to higher wages, but not necessarily an improved standard of living; in Britain, for example, the various Enclosures Acts meant that many people were forced from the land into the cities and it was this loss of lifestyle that lead to deprivation; even in the previous poverty of rural life, access to freshly grown food or illegally hunted game, for example, was sometimes to be had. At the same time, it would be incorrect to idealize the rural past, where opportunities for change within rigidly hierarchical societies were virtually nil. But once in the new cities, opportunity could be stifled by other demands, such as the heavy taxes that were a continual burden, often leading to a ‘catch 22’ situation...

(This entire section contains 9934 words.)

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where an increase in income could be quickly lost as governments took taxes for military expansion, among other things.2 The historian Hugh Brogan foregrounds the uneven development of the Industrial Revolution across Europe. In other words, not all European countries went through industrialization at the same time or at the same rate. Britain, France and Germany were the first countries to industrialize, and as conditions worsened for working people, emigration rates increased. As rising wages and improved working and living conditions developed, emigration numbers from these countries began to decline, just as numbers from Italy and Poland, began to increase, as they were not so industrially advanced.3

The immigrant experience was not entirely one of negative impetus and reasoning. Another basic question needs to be asked: what were the positive reasons for coming to America? The psychology of emigration from one's ancient homeland is complex: decisions may be based upon a mixture of fact and fiction. One fact was that the cost of travel to the US decreased significantly during the period of the Great Migration. Another fact was that many jobs waited for people in the rapidly expanding industries. But there was also at times the fantasy or fiction that life would necessarily improve immeasurably overnight, that great wealth would be made instantly and that success would be guaranteed for all newcomers. There is no doubt that many immigrants would in time achieve great success, but for many more, the immigrant experience was a long, hard process of work in primary industries and ‘sweat shops,’ often a process which eventually saw success with the next generation, through the education of the children who would not have to live by manual labor alone. John Bodnar argues that there was great diversity in the experiences of immigrants: “… not all newcomers behaved in a similar fashion … varying degrees of commitment to an assortment of cultures and ideologies were evident. …”4 Immigrants came from vastly different economic, political and religious backgrounds, expressing these differences upon arrival in the United States: “Some individuals pursued modern forms of life and livelihood while others valued more traditional patterns. Workers existed who championed socialism and others died for their attachment to Catholicism. Some immigrants came to America and acquired large fortunes, and many more simply went to work everyday with no appreciable gain.”5 Historians such as John Bodnar have long argued that the emergence of a strong capitalist economy in the United States went hand-in-hand with immigration, for example, not just through the availability of a large workforce, leading to a depression of wages (which is good from a capitalist standpoint), but also in terms of the increased skill and knowledge base: “Without immigration in the first century of American capitalism, the United States work force would have been only 70 percent of what it was by 1940.”6


Before moving on to an overview of the different immigrant literatures covered in this essay, it is essential to have a basic grasp of the experiences and histories of the ethnic groups under discussion. In what follows, Italian, Jewish (and East European), and Asian (Chinese and Japanese) historical experiences and narratives of migration will be briefly explored. Many of these narratives are autobiographical or ‘pseudo-autobiographical,’ that is to say, crossing the boundaries between fact and fiction. The fictional genre that is most closely related to such autobiographical writing is that of the bildungsroman, or novel of education and development. Martin Gray calls the bildungsroman “… a novel which describes the protagonist's development from childhood to maturity.”7 He cites as famous examples Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. What the autobiography and bildungsroman clearly have in common is a focus upon life-experience, education (either formal or through more subjective means), character formation and a sense of identity.8 One form (autobiography) purports to be factual, documenting actual life experiences, the other form (bildungsroman) purports to be fictional, but may have some basis in the author's own life. Both the autobiography and the bildungsroman often stress key transformative moments in an individual's life: these key moments usually follow a predetermined pattern of events that may be dictated by nature as much as nurture (for example, the onset of puberty, first sexual experiences, aging, and so on) or they may have social or historical agency (such as the outbreak of war disrupting an otherwise peaceful life). While immigrant experience narratives are often written using these two genres, they also develop them in distinctive ways, in particular through the fact that the formation of new immigrant identities usually takes place not only through formative experiences and the construction of the new, but also involving the deconstruction or dismantling of the old identity belonging to the country and/or nationality of origin. For example, the adoption of, or learning about, an American way of life may also involve the painful and disturbing dismantling of earlier modes of existence. That is not to say that such a ‘dismantling’ does not take place in the standard autobiography or bildungsroman, rather that it is a profoundly important component of the immigrant narratives, which focus not so much upon the construction of identity as the reconstruction of identity.


The complex society of Italy can be divided into two main groups for the purposes of studying emigration to the United States: northern and southern (or Mezogiorno) Italians, with the latter suffering extreme poverty in the nineteenth century. The Italian component of the Great Wave of immigration was largely made up of people from the south: “Between 1880 and 1920 the largest percentage of immigrants came from Sicily (29.9 percent), then from near Naples (27.4 percent), Abruzzi and Molise (16.2 percent), Calabria (13 percent), Apulia (7.4 percent), and Basilicata (5.8 percent).”9 These were people who had suffered repressive draft laws, heavy taxation and at times low pay and poor living conditions.10 Ben Morreale and Robert Carola note that in 1880, “… when the flood tide of Italian emigration to the United States began, the average Italian consumed only 28 pounds of meat in a year, while the average United States resident consumed 120 pounds a year.”11 Many other factors contributed to the desire to leave Italy for a fresh beginning; Morreale and Carola mention the cholera epidemics between 1884 and 1887, the overseas competition for the citrus fruit market (ironically, being surpassed by growers in California and Florida), the near destruction of the wine-industry due to phylloxera infestation as well as the difficult climate and terrain in terms of agricultural production.12 Emigration was not immediately directed towards the United States; indeed, Northern Italians favored initially South America as well as other European countries where they could establish themselves as professionals; Southern Italians favored the US initially, in part, because of a suspension of emigration to Brazil (due to outbreaks of yellow fever) and growing political and economic uncertainty in Argentina and Paraguay.13 Many Italians were not actually making a one-way journey: they shuttled back and forth between locations, becoming known as ‘birds of passage,’ moving from country to country according to seasonal work opportunities. Emigrants also poured money back into the Italian economy, sometimes as a way of funding further family emigration, but also through the buying of favored Italian goods and produce.14 In Rosa: The Life of an Italian Immigrant, there is an exploration of the complex processes of financial and family struggle when it came to emigrating, since Rosa has been sent money by her violent husband Santino to join and support him in the iron mines in Missouri, while she longs to stay with her baby and her parents in Italy, a country and environment she is comfortable with.15 Many people longed to escape to the New World, but many also dreaded and feared the upheaval and the unknown future.

Once in the United States, many Italian immigrants headed straight for places of work and settlement alongside other Italians. In New York, Italian locations included Mulberry Bend, Hell's Kitchen, Italian Harlem and, after the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, south Brooklyn: “As small colonies of Italian immigrants called ‘Little Italys’ sprang up in major American cities, Italians from different regions of Italy were often forced to live together, a practice they had avoided in the old country. Italian immigrants adopted the American customs that were useful to them, yet held on to many of the old regional ways they were not yet ready to give up.”16 Major centres of Italian residence included not only New York, but also Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia; close family ties and social support led to the rapid adoption of new immigrants within Italian communities. The positive side to Italian cultural and geographical cohesion could also lead to difficulties for second generation Italian Americans, for example, with the need to speak English to get on in the wider outside world. The importance of the English language and westernized education for second generation Italian Americans also came into conflict with the largely oral Italian culture that was passed on by the first generation through spoken narratives and anecdotes. The new world of the English language belonged primarily to written, rather than oral, narratives, and was in some instances seen as a threat to family cohesion (as well as the power of the church) as parents struggled to speak anything apart from their native tongue, and encouraged their children to remain within their known world. However, more positively, oral cultures also provided the bridge between Italy and America in the formation of a new Italian-American literature, expressed at first in what critic Fred L. Gardaphé calls the “poetic mode of narrative development,” that is to say, writing “… strongly connected to the oral traditions of Italian preindustrial culture.”17 Following Walter Ong, Gardaphé lists the distinctive characteristics of oral-based narrative; these include a focus on agonistic behaviour and lifestyle, with strong emphasis upon character and memorable events, a simple sentence structure that accumulates detail as an aide-mémoire, the use of repetition and the present tense, and the foregrounding of concrete events rather than abstract concepts.18 As Gardaphé notes:

In the villages and towns of Italy, the cantastorie, or ‘history singers,’ were (and in many cases still are) the custodians of local tradition. Within the family, children learned by listening, watching, and imitating. Books were not part of peasant life in southern Italy, nor were they an integral part of Italians' adaptation to American life. In America, Italian oral culture collided with the literary traditions of Anglo-Saxon culture, and for a long time learning how to write (more often than not for the first time) in the language of the adopted country would be synonymous with becoming American. Creating texts through narrative contributed to the re-creation of selves forged out of the elements of Italian and American cultures.19

Examples of the “poetic mode” include Constantine Panunzio's The Soul of an Immigrant (1921), Pascal D'Angelo's Son of Italy (1924) and Rosa Cavalleri's autobiography recollected orally to Marie Hall Ets, called Rosa: The Life of an Italian Immigrant (1970). Moving on from the “poetic mode,” to continue with Gardaphé's comprehensive and useful critical model, the next phase is called the “early mythic mode” representing a shift from the autobiographical narrative to the “autobiographical fiction” or immigrant bildungsroman. Written by the second generation of immigrants, these texts interrogated the myths not only of the American Dream, which contributed to their parents upheaval and arrival on American shores, but also the myths and stereotypes of the Italian in America. Further, this type of immigrant bildungsroman involved as much dismantling as construction: “… the children of Italian immigrants used their writing both to document and to escape the conditions under which they were born and raised.”20 Examples include Pietro Di Donato's Christ in Concrete (1939), Jerre Mangione's Mount Allegro (1943) and the now widely available novels and short-stories of John Fante, including The Road to Los Angeles (written 1933, published posthumously in 1985), Wait until Spring, Bandini (1938), and Ask the Dust (1939). Moving beyond the focus of this study, Gardaphé also examines the “middle mythic mode” (Godfather narratives), the “later mythic mode” and the “philosophic mode” of Italian American writing.21


Complex economic, social and historical forces led to the huge numbers of Jewish peoples entering the United States during the Great Wave of Immigration. Irving Howe, one of the leading historians of the East European Jewish immigrant experience, opens his World of Our Fathers with the statement that “The year 1881 marks a turning point in the history of the Jews … On March 1, 1881, Alexander II, czar of Russia, was assassinated by revolutionary terrorists; the modest liberalism of his regime came to an end; and within several weeks a wave of pogroms [organized persecution and/or extermination of an ethnic group] … spread across Russia.”22 Where were the Jewish peoples to go? Some had already begun emigrating to America, because of oppressive economic factors, persecution by the government, such as the more than six hundred anti-Jewish decrees effected in the period 1825 to 1855 under the reign of Nicholas I, and other forms of religious persecution.23 Jewish peoples lived for the most part in a strictly apportioned area, called the Pale of Settlement, yet the aim of the anti-Jewish decrees was in fact a form of assimilation. Under Alexander II, conditions for Jewish peoples had improved somewhat, for example reducing the period of military service, but this is not to suggest that life was still not a struggle for many millions, who lived in reduced circumstances in the small towns, known as shtetlekh. As Gerald Sorin argues: “… poverty was the general condition in the shtetl from at least as far back as the 1650s, and became worse in the late eighteenth century and through the nineteenth century.”24 Jewish peoples, marked by exterior features of difference or otherness (such as their distinctive dress code), known for their coherent, strong religious and ethical beliefs, were ongoing targets for abuse: “Jews who ventured outside the shtetl to peddle considered themselves lucky if they were not set upon and beaten. Even within the town, Jews were vulnerable to the invasions and excesses of the occasional drunken mob or discontented peasants intent on violence.”25 The shtetl was a close-knit religious community where Jewish codes and conventions, or laws, written in the Torah, were followed for many centuries. Education was of key importance, and this involved religious schooling (the schools were known as kheyder) in the Torah and the vast commentary text known as the Talmud. Poorer boys often gained community support to receive religious instruction. Girls were generally expected to receive their education at home, in preparation for married life, but some young women did receive education where their parents had a liberal or modernizing perspective upon life. Ironically, for some boys their education was enforced, experienced as a form of psychological torture, while some girls longed to receive a formal period of intellectual training and stimulation. Shtetl life began to feel the immense strain of anti-Jewish behaviour during the 1800s, leading to huge internal migrations between villages, towns and larger cities, due to mainly economic necessity. While the move to city life and activity did lead to the emergence of a new Jewish proletariat, and various forms of socialism, the culture of the shtetl remained strong: “In the midst of oppression and dislocation, shtetl culture experienced a reawakening and a reweaving into creative and vibrant forms in urban contexts.”26 This is an important point to consider in the context of the eventual Jewish settlement in large urbanized areas of the United States, and the complex, and at times contradictory, ties of family, religion, education, socialism and secularism. While arguing that pogroms were clearly not the only driving force for mass emigration, Sorin does concede that after 1881, “… Jews had to face anti-Semitism not simply as a permanent inconvenience but as a threat to their very existence.”27 But we should not perceive the emigration to the United States as merely a negative ‘fleeing’ of their persecutors: the Jewish peoples were going to America to build a new society that would in turn be a complex mixture of the traditional and the modern.

The narrative bridge between the old world and the new was built, initially, with the reinvigorated use of Yiddish. Critic Mark Schechner has argued that: “… the Yiddish linguistic and cultural renaissance, which occurred during the late nineteenth century … laid the groundwork for a secular, imaginative Jewish fiction even before the emigration to America. In the waning years of the nineteenth century there emerged in Europe and America a flourishing Yiddish press, theater, literature, and scholarship, urged on by the promptings of cultural nationalism and the various brands of labor socialism, which elevated Yiddish from the position of a despised popular jargon to that of a respected and resourceful language.”28 Yiddish was the language of the Jewish ‘here and now’ in America, which is not to devalue its role in comprehending the new circumstances that Jews found themselves in, in relation to the old or previous worlds: quite the opposite—Yiddish functioned precisely to help make sense of the new, to experiment with attitudes and potential ideologies, to educate and to provide an alternative forum for debate. Yiddish was also a language within which a gradual relocation of ‘redemptive’ desires took place. As Gerald Sorin notes, prior to emigration: “Much of Jewish theology looked to the future, which was envisaged as a return to the good, older times … this future was assumed to be far off. Meanwhile, the community derived its religion, its values, and its very meaning from the past. In some ways, then, [traditional, pre-immigration] Jewish society had no present.”29 The present consisted of adherence to “tradition” and the advancement of learning.30 As Franz Rosenzweig suggests in The Star of Redemption, “… redemption is thus wholly and solely something yet to come, is—future.”31 The growth of a Yiddish literature explored the possibility that the focus on the future had to be shifted to the present as a mode of survival, and with a glimmer of hope that the redemptive could be achieved through personal and social achievements in the secular world. Initially, Yiddish writings in the United States mainly appeared in newspapers. Irving Howe argues that the newfound circumstances of Eastern Europeans “… made the immigrants ripe for a new kind of literary expression, a poetry and fiction blunt in speech, fiery in politics, breaking away from the passivity of traditional folk material.”32

The first major Yiddish literary movement in the US, during the 1880s and 1890s, was the “sweatshop poets” or writers, the leading figures being Morris Winchevsky, who had known William Morris in England, David Edelstadt, Morris Rosenfeld and Joseph Bovshover. These men spoke of the personal, painful experiences of unremitting labor and toil that so many Jewish immigrants endured in the sweatshops. Howe argues that they must not be conflated with later proletarian writings, since they “… wrote directly out of their own turmoil, their own travail, and … were never middle-class literati engaged in poetic slumming.”33 Many other writers and journalists were involved in the fast-paced world of the Yiddish press, but the most vocal movement after the sweatshop poets was Di Yunge (The Young Ones), called “The beginnings of a distinctively modern Yiddish literature.”34 Di Yunge was a group of immigrants who rejected ideological or nationalist poetry and turned to world literature for aesthetic models, such as impressionism, expressionism and symbolism.35 Some of the main poets in the movement included Mani Leib, Zisha Landau, Reuben Iceland, Joseph Rolnick and Moshe Leib Halpern; prose writers included Joseph Opatashu, David Ignatow and I. Raboy.36 Above all, these poets rejected past Jewish obsessions and focused instead upon language itself; regardless of this idealistic aim (that literary achievements could be made while ignoring historical reality), these men were hard workers, and they produced a powerful synthesis of the old and the new, the working class and the ‘artistic’ voices of the world. Di Yunge would later be rejected and replaced by a modernist Yiddish movement called In Zikh (Introspectivists), who were educated in American literature among other things, and took their literary experimentalism further than their predecessors. Howe argues that the In Zikh movement marks a point where Yiddish almost joins the Western mainstream.37

Yiddish literature encompassed all modes of writing and all literary genres. But Jewish Americans were also rapidly learning American English, at school (including the education of adults at, for example, night school), on the streets, and occasionally through work. Shechner argues that: “… to see the adoption of English solely as a form of assimilation is to mistake for mere convenience what was often a fierce embrace of a language rich in expressive resources and literary possibilities.”38 Early Jewish American writings in English were autobiographical, one of the most famous texts being Mary Antin's The Promised Land (1912). Abraham Cahan's immigrant bildungsroman,The Rise of David Levinsky (1917) has been seen as a forerunner of the later Jewish American “proletarian literature” that arose in the 1930s.39 Michael Gold's Jews without Money (1930) and Henry Roth's Call It Sleep (1934) are two of the most well known examples of this movement. Gold did not just write fiction: he wrote political journalism for socialist magazines such as the Masses and the New York Call; he was involved in founding the New Playwrights Theatre in New York, and also wrote plays such as Down the Airshaft (1916), Ivan's Homecoming (1917) and Money (1920).40 An important forum for left-wing Jewish writers in the late 1930s was the journal Partisan Review: “… a rallying point for independent leftists after 1937 … founded on a program of radicalism in politics and avant-gardism in literature, despite the appearance of such profound contradiction between the two that made it anathema to more rigorous Marxists …”41 Saul Bellow first published in Partisan Review, and his first novel called Dangling Man (1944) signals, in terms of influences and intertexts, the tension between Jewishness and cosmopolitan culture. Many highly influential Jewish American writers emerged in the 1940s and 1950s, but the issue becomes one of whether these authors are to be categorized as “Jewish” or “American” as their novels took on ever-increasing universal significance, and the immigrant world was gradually left behind.


The immigrant literatures of Asian peoples are exceptionally diverse; the focus here is upon Chinese and Japanese immigrant experiences, and in no way is this section meant to stand in for the entire community of Asian writers currently living and working in the United States. Furthermore, Chinese and Japanese immigrants have had very different experiences of America, especially in light of the events that followed the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor during the Second World War. The treatment of two ethnic groups together here represents in part the fact that these quite distinct cultures have undergone, at times, similar treatment at the hands of anti-Asian politicians and other people; further, Chinese and Japanese immigrants form the initial groups of Asian peoples moving en masse to the United States.

A Chinese presence in the United States has been registered since the 1780s, although official records began in the 1820s. San Francisco was a popular destination for merchants and other workers, although the Chinese men who worked as laborers on the railroads lead a more nomadic life, San Francisco being merely their main port of entry. Roger Daniels notes that “… meaningful Chinese immigration to the United States begins roughly with the California gold rush of 1849.”42 The phrase “gold mountain” stands in for “California” for these immigrants who were escaping from political instability and economic hardships at home,43 implying also in part a utopian dream of making a rapid fortune—a dream shared by many immigrants in the American, and later Canadian, West. Like other immigrant groups, the Chinese had to constantly battle against anti-immigrant sentiment and law; nonetheless, up the three-hundred thousand Chinese entered the United States between 1848 and 1882, the latter date marking the significant passing of the Exclusion Act. The Chinese had diversified into a wide range of employment, such as: “… agriculture, land reclamation, fishing, manufacturing and service industries.”44 Local resistance to labor diversification and the considerable contributions made to the American economy and infrastructure45, ultimately hardened into the official implementation of the Exclusion Act (which would not be repealed until 1943). Most of the initial, mainly male Chinese immigrants came from Canton; these men were either bachelors or married men who were sending money back home to their wives and families. Due to immigration restrictions, very few women were allowed to join their husbands in the United States. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, whereby all people born in the United States were deemed citizens, Chinese born in America did have more freedom, being able to travel to China to marry and return with their children, but not their Chinese wives.46 Urbanized life predominated for the Chinese, with San Francisco's “Chinatown” being a coherent centre of cultural and economic existence. For a society that was predominantly made up of bachelors, the loss of familial space could be compensated for by the dense communities found in the urban environment. Chinatown also became a heavily overdetermined signifier in the representation of the Chinese via stereotypes of crime and disorder: like all urban ghettoes or enclaves, a heavily concentrated gathering of one particular ethnic group appeared to make visible, for racists, the threat of “foreigners” taking over the country.

The occupations, and conditions of living, for Chinese immigrants, had a profound impact on their subsequent literary expression. Workers who spent most of their waking hours in labor gangs, for example, constructing railroads, were highly unlikely to turn to the production of literary texts in their spare time; combined with the fact that such workers were predominantly from a cultural background where usually only the educated elite produced written texts, it is unsurprising that not many written narratives were produced in the early phases of Chinese immigration. However, some remarkable texts do survive, in particular the poetry carved into the walls of the Angel Island barracks in San Francisco Bay, the point of entry for most Chinese between 1910 and 1940. Angel Island barracks was a holding site, which means that people were detained there, while they were waiting for the results of immigration cases, sometimes based upon medical examinations and reports; deportees were also held prior to their transportation back to China.47 The immigrants and deportees (or prisoners) carved poetry on the barrack walls: “… recording the impressions of their voyage to America, their longing for families back home, and their outrage and humiliation at the treatment America accorded them.”48 The poems are mainly written in the Cantonese classical style, and examine the individual's fate rather than having any particular political manifesto. While the literary quality of the poetry is highly varied, as deeply personal documentary accounts of problematic immigrant experiences, they are to be valued:

These poems stand on their own. Often haunting and poignant in their directness and simplicity of language, they express a vitality of indomitability never before identified with the Chinese Americans.


The poems occupy a unique place in the literary culture of Asian America. These immigrant poets unconsciously introduced a new sensibility, a Chinese American sensibility using China as the source and America as a bridge to spawn a new cultural perspective.49

In complete distinction to the Angel Island poets, early Chinese immigrant prose narrative writers came not from the workers, but from a more transitory group of people, such as students, scholars, business people and government diplomats: as a loosely connected group, these are the writings of the “Ambassadors of Goodwill.” Elaine H. Kim argues that while their autobiographical writing “… is characterized by efforts to bridge the gap between East and West”50 the Ambassadors of Goodwill also utilized stereotypes in their pleading for tolerance towards Chinese immigrants:

Since many of these early Asian writers in English felt that they themselves understood two points of view and, in some cases, two epochs—to them the West stood for modernity and the East for tradition—they viewed themselves as straddling two worlds. Since they found that elements from two vastly different cultures could be combined within themselves, they concluded that there could be points of compatibility between other people of the two cultures. […] Most of them, however, did not believe that social class distinctions could be bridged. Their writing is marked by dissociation from the Asian common people, whether in Asia or in the West … their explanations of Asian to the West are usually focussed on high culture, and the indignation they express at American race policies is often tentative and apologetic.51

Key texts here include Lee Yan Phou's When I Was a Boy in China (1887), Wu Tinfang's America through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat (1914), and Lin Yutang's My Country and My People (1935). (For Etsu Sugimoto's A Daughter of the Samurai, 1925—see Japanese American section below.) The class “dissociation” of the Ambassadors of Goodwill can be largely attributed to their own cultural upbringing—of more importance, however, may be the analysis and awareness of the effects of their “ambassadorial” attempts at shifting the attitudes of Americans towards Asian peoples. In other words, while the Ambassadors of Goodwill may not have been in touch with the lower or working classes, they were intent on keeping immigration opportunities open for all Asian peoples. Furthermore, in their own countries, they were often involved in modernizing projects, hoping to improve educational possibilities and a more liberal attitude towards, for example, the role of women in society. Contemporary criticism may judge the Ambassadors of Goodwill harshly, but their narratives are at times counter-discursive, containing subversive readings of the very stereotypes they have been accused of promulgating.

Later Chinese autobiographical writing, produced by second generation immigrants, also functioned in “ambassadorial” ways: not so much between two countries, but more as a way of promoting the virtues of American existence. Two of the most famous such texts are Pardee Lowe's Father and Glorious Descendent (1943) and Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter (1950). Kim notes how: “The U.S. State Department, having already negotiated the rights to publish Fifth Chinese Daughter into a number of Asian languages, arranged for Jade Snow Wong to be sent on a speaking tour in 1952 to forty-five Asian locales from Tokyo to Karachi, where she was to speak about the benefits of American democracy from the perspective of a Chinese American.”52 Ironically, during a period when public opinion towards Chinese Americans softened and became more relaxed and accepting, Japanese Americans were being firmly treated as enemies.53

Japanese immigrants within the United States were initially involved in agriculture, including, in 1869, a colony of political refugees near Sacramento and 150 Japanese workers on sugar plantations in Hawaii.54 The latter number would increase enormously over the following years. Most Japanese immigrants arrived—and stayed—on the West Coast, at ports such as San Francisco and Seattle, as well as the Pacific Northwest Canadian port of Vancouver. Roger Daniels compares Chinese and Japanese immigrant demographics, noting that while the Chinese remained predominantly a bachelor society for much of the period (due to the Exclusion Act), the Japanese had a more balanced gender distribution, leading to significant differences in the communities as more American Japanese children were born: “As of 1940 more than two-thirds of the 125,000 Japanese Americans were native-born citizens, as against a bare majority of the 75,000 Chinese Americans. Furthermore significant numbers of that majority of Chinese Americans—those with forged birth certificates and the “paper sons” those certificates brought in—were persons acculturated in China rather than America.”55 The Japanese immigrants, after an urbanized phase (18802 and 1980s) began to pursue agricultural businesses denied them by the scarcity of arable land in their rapidly industrialized Japanese homeland.56 Soon, Japanese peoples progressed from farm laborers to farm owners, making significant contributions to Californian prosperity and growth. Unlike the Chinese, the urban centre of Japanese existence was the sprawling Los Angeles, where more than 35,000 Japanese resided by 1930.57 Historians generally agree that the rising industrial and military might of Japan meant that localized anti-Japanese activities in California were not able to mature into a similar Exclusion Act that denied the Chinese immigrants right of entry; however, the negotiation by Roosevelt of the 1907-08 “Gentlemen's Agreement” had an important result: while potential male immigrants were now refused passports on the Japanese side, family reunification allowances led to a vast increase in the number of women entering the United States, many under the custom known as “picture bride marriage” whereby women would be married to men in America that they had not previously met.58 As Roger Daniels notes:

The Japanese American community thus developed along sharply differentiated generational lines. The immigrant generation, the Issei (literally first generation) came in two echelons: most males between the 1890s and 1908; most females between 1918 and 1924. Their children, the Nisei (literally, second generation) were born into families in which the father was usually a decade older than the mother. When, in 1942, the government incarcerated the West Coast Japanese and got a detailed count, in the typical Japanese family children had been born in the years 1918-1922, and the surviving male parents were in their late fifties, the females in their late forties.59

The Second World War provided the American people with a political context to undo virtually all of the gains made by Japanese American society up to this point; after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, roughly two thousand “Japanese aliens” (as they were classified by the government) were rounded up along with small numbers of German and Italian “aliens.” By early 1942, a Presidential Executive Order set in motion an even more devastating sequence of events, whereby 120,000 Japanese Americans, including native-born American citizens, were placed in concentration camps for up to four years.60 This harsh treatment is still cause for concern for many Japanese Americans, and other people, to this day.

Early Japanese immigrant literature includes the Ambassadors of Goodwill (see above), such as Etsu Sugimoto's A Daughter of the Samurai (1925), parts of which had been published separately in the American press. In contrast to Sugimoto's work, during the 1920s and 1930s, Toshio Mori was quietly developing his skills as a short-story writer, observing with fine detail from the immigrant perspective the intergenerational relationships, and the hopes and dreams of the Japanese in America. Like other Japanese American authors, Mori was first published in the popular press—in 1938 he published his first piece in Coast magazine: “By 1941, he had been published in the Clipper,Common Ground,Writer's Forum,Matrix, and the Iconograph …”61 But the internment experience would delay the publication of Mori's collection, Yokohama, California, from its intended 1942 date, until 1949. Other powerful narratives of the interment experience include Miné Okubo's Citizen 13660 (1946), Shelley Agame Nishimura Ota's Upon Their Shoulders (1951) and John Okada's No-No Boy (1957). A key short-story writer from this later period is Hisaye Yamamoto, whose stories include “The legend of Miss Sasagawara” (1950) and “Yoneko's Earthquake” (1951), to name but a few. Kim suggests that: “Most of Yamamoto's stories have something to say about the relationship between the issei and nisei generations, who are brought together in stories essentially addressed to fellow nisei almost as a warning to them not to lose the experience of their parents …”62


As an expression of a period of profound change in American history, the literature of the immigrant experience was not always immediately appreciated by its contemporary readers and critics. In recent years, the recuperation of authors from the Great Wave of immigration has been at times dictated by new cultural sensibilities, alongside new academic and critical preoccupations or reorientation, such as with feminist, postcolonial and poststructuralist literary criticism. In some respects, therefore, the literature of the immigrant experience has had “two lives” or phases: first, through the reception of its initial contemporaries, and second, with the critical recuperation processes of more recent years. A novelist may have been virtually ignored in the first instance, or phase, to be recuperated and vigorously promoted in the second phase, or, vice versa. A novelist could also be successful, or unknown, in both phases, forming a relatively major or minor role in the history of American literature.

Critical factors that have influenced the impact of immigrant literatures are sometimes far more general than contemporary literary theorists suggest. For example, one key question is “what are people looking for as a marker of literary success in a work of literature?” We can imagine a situation where an immigrant novel is first published, and the critics argue that it is “poorly written” in terms of literary style. However, that same novel may be read with much interest many years later, for its historical or documentary content, perhaps by critics who wish to reconstruct the experiences of a particular ethnic group. Another situation can be imagined where the same novel is now considered to be “well written” because critical conceptions of what constitutes “good” writing have also changed over time (for example, there is now much more critical interest in “popular culture” and “popular genres” such as crime fiction or science fiction, with less emphasis on the actual literary or poetic qualities of the text).

The rediscovery or recuperation of an immigrant author can also be driven by commercial considerations, for example, “cult” authors, who usually write subversive, marginal or extreme narratives, are also now highly saleable, especially if the author in question belonged to a radical or avant garde group or movement (such as the Beats). Publisher's lists of cult authors brought back into print are constantly lengthening, the work of John Fante being a relevant example. Much of Fante's work had long gone out of print (or had never been published at all), when Los Angeles poet Ben Pleasants and cult author Charles Bukowski decided to try and get Ask the Dust republished. Eventually Bukowski's publisher, John Martin of Santa Barbara's Black Sparrow Press, agreed that this was a good idea, especially as Bukowski was writing an introduction that explored his first encounter with the novel:63

Then one day I pulled a book down [in the downtown L.A. public library] and opened it, and there it was. I stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table. The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humour and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me.64

Black Sparrow republished the novel in the United States in 1980, and a Rebel Inc, edition was published in 1998 in the United Kingdom, with a reprint the following year. Eventually, virtually all of Fante's major works were republished, or published for the first time, by Black Sparrow Press. Another case of a novelist being lauded and then slipping in to a fairly long period of obscurity before rediscovery is Henry Roth's Call It Sleep. First published in 1934, the book all but disappeared for over twenty-five years, except for devoted readers who often passed on knowledge about the text by word-of-mouth. As Hana Wirth-Nesher notes:

Inaccessible, marginal, nearly forgotten, its revival is by now a legend in American literary history. For the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Phi Beta Kappa journal, the American Scholar, the editors ran a special feature entitled “The Most Neglected Books of the Past 25 Years.” The only title to be mentioned more than once was Call It Sleep, cited by both Alfred Kazin and Leslie Fiedler.


The novel made a miraculous comeback. Harold Ribalow negotiated a reissue in 1960, with a critical introduction by Maxwell Geismar. Four years later Peter Mayer, who had been introduced to the out-of-print book by a New York cabby, used his tiny budget at Avon where he had just landed a publishing job to purchase the rights and reissue it in paperback. It sold a million copies.65

The republishing of Call It Sleep was also a critical rehabilitation, adding to earlier critical accolades that had classified the novel in relation to modernism or naturalism, with the new interest in the academy in ethnicity: “As a new wave of university students two generations removed from immigration participated in a nationwide search for national roots beyond the Atlantic, Call It Sleep became a staple of Jewish literature and Jewish studies curricula.”66 Critical endorsement was thus powerfully enhanced by a shift in critical studies at the college and university level within the humanities. Such a shift can, however, work in the opposite direction. With the Asian stereotypes found in the writings of the “Ambassadors of Goodwill,” alongside an “elitist” vision of humanity, contemporary critics are no longer so tolerant of what was once an extremely popular form of writing.

Large scale historical events or processes also, at times, disrupted the potential success of immigrant literatures. A quite complex case is that of Toshio Mori's Yokohama, California, which was contracted in 1941, and scheduled for publishing in 1942. However, after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Mori was sent to an internment camp, and his book was not published until 1949. In the intervening period, the American public's attitude towards people of Japanese descent went through myriad changes, and this had a profound effect upon the way writings such as Mori's were received. Yokohama, California did not sell well at all, even though it did receive a fairly positive response from critics and reviewers; Kim notes how, ironically, the Japanese American writer Albert Saijo attacked the book in the Japanese American weekly called Crossroads (March 29, 1949): “Saijo condemned all nisei writing as muddled, sentimental, and poorly crafted, although he did begrudgingly grant a “certain vigor and charm” to some of Mori's stories and admitted that Mori's portrayal of the issei had a certain authenticity.”67 Mori's work was recuperated in the academic world and beyond, but not until the late 1970s and 1980s. Perhaps one of the most bizarre processes of immigrant literature recuperation and restitution occurred on Angel Island, where the barracks that had temporarily housed immigrants were scheduled for demolition. Visited in 1970 by park ranger Alexander Weiss, who noticed the Chinese writings on the walls, he then “… contacted Dr. George Araki of San Francisco State University, who along with San Francisco photographer Mark Takahashi went out to the island and photographed practically every inch of the barrack walls that bore writing, most of which was poetry.”68 The poetry was eventually published by the University of Washington Press in the 1990s. While such a book is unlikely to gain mass sales, it is a remarkable and important document in the history of the Chinese American immigrant literary history, and a fine example of how texts which are usually considered impossible to preserve can in fact find new audiences and safe-keeping in university and private libraries.


The dominant literary genres of the literature of the immigrant experience are the autobiography and the “biographical novel” or immigrant bildungsroman. In each of the ethnic groups here, the key early texts are written utilizing these genres. Even with the early Chinese immigrant literatures, which split between the educated, elite authors of the Ambassadors of Goodwill and the working, mainly uneducated people, of the Angel Island poets (or Poets of Exclusion, as they are also known), autobiographical experiences are a shared concern. The Angel Island poets clearly do not use prose genres, but they do write poetry that is self-reflective, to do with their life-experiences and their sometimes poignant, often angry, reactions to confinement and enforced return to China.

Autobiographical texts, while being deeply personal accounts of individuals lives, also follow predetermined patterns and structures, with a focus upon selected key moments, such as the sea journey or passage from the old world to the new world. While examining the difficulties and painful struggles that an individual undergoes in the dismantling and reconstruction of identity, immigrant autobiographies also present a generally positive transition, the “success story” of the American Dream be it at a personal or economic level. For second generation immigrants, the tensions generated by the at times conflicting relationships with their parents, the memories of and loyalties towards an old world which were not experienced first-hand, and to the new loyalties and feelings of identity found in America, means that the generally progressive, positive framework of the immigrant autobiography is no longer an appropriate vehicle for literary expression. Instead, the immigrant bildungsroman provides both the autobiographical framework, as well as the distancing devices of the fictional character or protagonist and family/environment he or she is placed within. In other words, second generation immigrants can utilize their own experiences and those of others to create a fictional world based upon reality. In many respects, second generation immigrant bildungsromans feel much more modern than their parent's autobiographical narratives: this may be because they are often written from the perspective of a young man or woman growing up in the United States (rather than growing up abroad, and then continuing their development in the U.S. after emigrating), such as in John Fante's novels: they share qualities with other Anglo-literature coming-of-age novels, and have a more universal appeal.

The evolution of the literature of the immigrant experience can be followed in a number of ways: in terms of generic shifts, in relation to critical reception (see above) or in terms of the historical development of a particular ethnic group. For example, with Jewish immigrant literature, as Jewish Americans became more secularized and integrated within American society as a whole, so the literatures produced by them began to cover wider subject matters, and were read as “American literature” rather than as belonging to a culture within a culture. However, that is not to say that Jewish Americans somehow simply erased their Jewish roots: the reality is far more complex, with some peoples of Jewish descent having completely secularized/integrated, while others explore and celebrate their specifically religious/cultural past to varying degrees. The tensions between different aspects of contemporary American Jewish life have been explored from a comic perspective in the films of Woody Allen, for example with Deconstructing Harry, where parody is used to critique and poke fun at secular Harry's “orthodox” relatives as well as at the selfish individualism that dominates his own life. Mark Schechner regards the post-Second World War Jewish novel to be one of dispossession—yet paradoxically, this led to a literary renaissance:

Marxism, which had formerly offered both a world view and an aesthetic, was in ruins; Yiddish culture, which had long been in decline in America, was wiped out altogether in Europe and along with it those vestiges of Jewish life that might have supported an alternative vision to the prevailing American world view; and the new era of American prosperity and acquisition lacked at first any claims on the allegiance of intellectuals who had only yesterday championed the Marxist prognosis that the state would soon wither away.69

Mark Schechner further argues, therefore, that disillusionment and “dispossession” inform Jewish American texts such as Saul Bellow's Dangling Man (1944), Norman Mailer's Advertisements for Myself (1959), and E. L. Doctorow's The Book of Daniel (1971). The dominant Jewish American author who explores Zionism is Meyer Levin, in his novels and autobiographical writings, such as: My Father's House (1947), In Search (1950), The Obsession (1973), The Spell of Time (1974), The Settlers (1972) and The Harvest (1978).70

The transition from immigrant literature to “mainstream” or more popular literature is not necessarily a process whereby ethnic identity is effaced or marginalized; with the example of Italian American literatures the opposite is in fact the case. The transition from the literatures of the Great Wave of immigration onwards led to the “godfather” narratives such as Mario Puzo's The Godfather (1969), Gay Talese's Honor Thy Father (1971) and Giose Rimanelli's Benedetta in Guysterland (1993).71 These narratives had immense appeal and literary success, the latter translating into even bigger audience appreciation with film versions of godfather narratives. As Fred L. Gardaphé notes:

With the publication of The Godfather in 1969, Mario Puzo was immediately promoted to celebrity status. Not since the publication of Pietro di Donato's Christ in Concrete had an American author of Italian descent been thrust into the national spotlight on such a grand scale. The timing of The Godfather's publication had much to do with its rapid climb to number one and its sixty-seven week stay on the New York Times best-seller list. The novel came off the press in the middle of the ethnic revival period of the 1960s. It also followed nationally televised congressional hearings on organized crime …72

Puzo's novel was thus published at a time when what it meant to be an Italian American was a burning issue for the Italian American community; the novel dealt with stereotypes concerning Italians and organized crime, yet it also contributed to the perpetuation of such stereotypes, in part through the ensuing “godfather” genre.

Historical events on a grand scale also influenced the development of Immigrant literatures, for example, the Vietnam War had a profound impact upon Asian Americans, and lead in many cases to a serious reassessment of what it meant to be a citizen of the United States. Kim argues, in relation to the Vietnam War and the experiences of the civil rights movement, that:

The new awareness that it was possible and desirable to be both American and nonwhite resulted in Asian American literary efforts to assert an ethnic American identity and to challenge old myths and stereotypes. Young writers attempted to “claim America” for Asian Americans by demonstrating Asian roots in American society and culture. In some cases, this meant rejecting the ethnic community as subject matter, since some writers felt that it limited them and only perpetuated the relegation of Asian Americans to marginal status. They turned their interest away from community portraiture and towards questions of individual Asian American identity within the context of the larger society.73

New non-stereotypical literary efforts, however, were in need of promotion and ideological support; in the Asian American community this occurred with the Combined Asian Resources Project, or CARP;74 the key text to emerge in this period was an anthology created by CARP members, called Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian-American Writers.75 The assertive and combative tone of the editors' preface is in part designed to counter the racism suffered by Asian American authors: “Asian America, so long ignored and forcibly excluded from creative participation in American culture, is wounded, sad, angry, swearing, and wondering, and this is his AIIIEEEEE!!! It is more than a whine, shout, or scream. It is fifty years of our whole voice.”76 As well as the valuable work involved in compiling their anthology, CARP members have been instrumental in the republishing of key Asian American texts such as John Okada's No-No Boy (Washington: University of Washington Press, 1976) and Monica Sone's Nisei Daughter (Washington: University of Washington Press, 1979); furthermore, University of Washington Press made available the previously unpublished work by Toshio Mori called Woman from Hiroshima (1978).77 Frank Chin and Jeffery Paul Chan re-articulate masculinity and voice within Asian American literature, as well as dismantling stereotypes; short stories by Chin include: “Food for All His Dead” (written 1962) and “Goong Hai Fot Choy” (1970); a key story by Chan is “Jackrabbit” (1974). Shawn Hsu Wong published in 1979 Homebase, which Kim notes is “… about a Chinese American's journey to search for and claim roots in American soil.”78 Kim also argues that CARP members stress male experiences, at times to the detriment of female Asian American characters; a key author who reverses this focus, as well as being an international success, is Maxine Hong Kingston, with The Woman Warrior (1977) and China Men (1980).


  1. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (New York and London: Penguin, 1989), pp. 46-47.

  2. Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History of the United States of America (New York and London: Penguin, 1990), p. 404.

  3. Ibid., p. 405.

  4. John Bodnar, The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), p. xvi.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Ibid., p. xix.

  7. Martin Gray, A Dictionary of Literary Terms (Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1986), p. 33.

  8. Ibid., list modified.

  9. Ben Morreale and Robert Carola, Italian Americans: The Immigrant Experience (Hong Kong: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., 2000), p. 49.

  10. Ibid., pp. 50-51.

  11. Ibid., pp. 51-52.

  12. Ibid., pp. 52-53.

  13. Ibid., p. 59.

  14. Hugh Brogan, The Penguin History of the United States of America, p. 449.

  15. Marie Hall Ets, Rosa: The Life of an Italian Immigrant (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1970).

  16. Ben Morreale and Robert Carola, Italian Americans: The Immigrant Experience, p. 92.

  17. Fred L. Gardaphé, Italian Signs, American Streets: The Evolution of Italian American Narrative (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1996), p. 24 and p. 25.

  18. Ibid., pp. 25-26.

  19. Ibid., p. 25.

  20. Ibid., p. 57.

  21. Ibid., chapters three, four and five.

  22. Irving Howe, World Of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made (London: Phoenix, 2000), p. 5.

  23. Ibid., p. 6.

  24. Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building: The Third Migration 1880-1920 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1992), The Jewish People in America series, General Editor, Henry L. Feingold, p. 13.

  25. Ibid., p. 14.

  26. Ibid., p. 25.

  27. Ibid., pp. 35-36.

  28. Mark Schechner, “Jewish Writers” in, Daniel Hoffman, ed., Harvard Guide to Contemporary American Writing (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: Harvard UP/Belknap Press, 1979), p. 195.

  29. Gerald Sorin, A Time for Building: The Third Migration 1880-1920, pp. 14-15.

  30. Ibid., p. 15.

  31. Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, trans. William W. Hallo (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1985), p. 234.

  32. Irving Howe, World Of Our Fathers, p. 418.

  33. Ibid., p. 423.

  34. Ibid., p. 428.

  35. Ibid., p. 429.

  36. Ibid.

  37. Ibid., p. 440; Howe stresses the “almost.”

  38. Mark Schechner, “Jewish Writers,” p. 195.

  39. Richard Ruland and Malcolm Bradbury, From Puritanism To Postmodernism: A History of American Literature (New York and London: Penguin, 1992), p. 334.

  40. (See DLB 9, part 2, and DLB 28).

  41. Mark Schechner, “Jewish Writers,” p. 198.

  42. Roger Daniels, Coming To America: A History Of Immigration And Ethnicity In American Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), p. 239.

  43. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940 (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1991), p. 10.

  44. Kai-yu Hsu and Helen Palumbunskas, (eds), Asian-American Authors (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972), pp. 13-14.

  45. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, p. 10.

  46. Roger Daniels, Coming To America: A History Of Immigration And Ethnicity In American Life, p. 246.

  47. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, p. 8.

  48. Ibid.

  49. Ibid., pp. 27-28.

  50. Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982), p. 24.

  51. Ibid., pp. 24/25.

  52. Ibid., p. 60.

  53. Ibid., p. 59.

  54. Roger Daniels, Coming To America: A History Of Immigration And Ethnicity In American Life, p. 250.

  55. Ibid., pp. 252-253.

  56. Ibid., p. 253.

  57. Ibid., p. 254.

  58. Ibid., pp. 254-255.

  59. Ibid., p. 255.

  60. Ibid., p. 303.

  61. Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, p. 168.

  62. Ibid., p. 158.

  63. Stephen Cooper, Full of Life: A Biography Of John Fante (New York and Edinburgh: Rebel Inc, 2000), pp. 308-309.

  64. Charles Bukowski, introduction to John Fante's Ask The Dust (Edinburgh: Rebel Inc, 1999), p. viii.

  65. Hana Wirth-Nesher, “Call It Sleep: Jewish, American, Modernist, Classic,” Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, (44, 4, 1995): 388-398; pp. 389-390.

  66. Ibid., p. 390.

  67. Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, p. 168.

  68. Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim and Judy Yung, eds., Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940, pp. 9-10.

  69. Mark Schechner, “Jewish Writers,” p. 197.

  70. Ibid., pp. 197-198.

  71. Fred L. Gardaphé, Italian Signs, American Streets: The Evolution of Italian American Narrative, p. 86.

  72. Ibid., pp. 88-89.

  73. Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, p. 173.

  74. Ibid, pp. 174-5.

  75. Frank Chin, Jeffery Paul Chan, Lawson Fusao Inada and Shawn Hsu Wong, eds., Aiiieeeee!: An Anthology of Asian-American Writers (New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1975; Originally published by Howard University Press, 1975).

  76. Ibid., pp. viiii-x.

  77. Elaine H. Kim, Asian American Literature: An Introduction to the Writings and Their Social Context, p. 175.

  78. Ibid., p. 194.




Representative Writers