James Robert Payne has edited the first collection of critical essays devoted exclusively to ethnic American autobiography. His introduction to the collection reviews the literature of autobiography studies and then describes the eleven essays which follow. Several of the pieces reflect an older, Eurocentric focus: Richard Tuerk’s “At Home in the Land of Columbus: Americanization in European-American Immigrant Autobiography,” Fred L. Gardaphe’s “My House Is Not Your House: Jerre Mangione and Italian-American Autobiography,” and Steven J. Rubin’s “The Ghetto and Beyond: First-Generation American-Jewish Autobiography and Cultural History.” Other essays reflect the increasing interest today in other ethnicities: Native American (A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff on “John Joseph Mathews’s TALKING TO THE MOON: Literary and Osage Contexts”), African-American (Frances Foster Smith on Elizabeth Keckley, Keith E. Byerman on THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF W. E. B. DU BOIS), Asian-American (Stephen H. Sumida on Monica Sone’s NISEI DAUGHTER and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong on Maxine Hong Kingston’s THE WOMAN WARRIOR), and Hispanic American (Raymund A. Paredes on Richard Rodriguez’s HUNGER OF MEMORY, and Jose David Saldivar on “The School of Caliban: Pan-American Autobiography”).
Payne himself contributes an essay on Southern writer George Washinton Cable. Payne’s collection adds substantially to the growing body of criticism of American autobiography, and at the same time feeds recent and increasing interest in multicultural literature and multiethnic lives.