Dissertation Abstract

"Transcultural Women of Late-Twentieth-Century American Literature: First-Generation Immigrants from Islands and Peninsulas"

This project explores how women writers who migrate in the latter half of the twentieth century from non-European countries to the United States endeavor to become transcultural representations of diverse cultures. Upon leaving their homelands, often already cross-hatched societies in which cultural differences are deeply embedded, these writers-Judith Ortiz Cofer, Julia Alvarez, Jamaica Kincaid, Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Lan Cao-and their characters first create makeshift island cultures in the United States, and then begin to cross into the mainland's society. Their struggles are not as simple as leaving an "Old World" and assimilating into a "New World," to borrow from a historically significant phrase used by Anzia Yezierska, a Russian Jew who immigrated to New York in the 1890s. In the texts considered in this study, most of which were published in the 1990s, these binarisms of "Old" and "New" worlds fragment into multifaceted, ever-transforming differences. This study culminates with six interviews from migrant writers, including Ortiz Cofer, Lim and Cao; other interviews--with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Le Ly Hayslip and Frances Esquibel Tywoniak--further investigate issues pertaining to migration and multiple differences.