Gloria Anzaldúa, the Hispanic-American feminist critic, propounded the concept of “borderland”, which she defines as “a place where two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory.” If, instead of talking about America as homeland, we speak of it instead as borderland, how would you apply this to certain Contemporary American texts? Write an essay in which you cite specific strategies put forward by these works to illustrate this borderland concept.
Anzaldua’s concept of borderland may very well apply to America owing to the multicultural society that it is. This borderland resembles a modern Janus which faces a primordial, ideal past subject—in this case, the old country—while simultaneously gazing at a modern future—the new homeland that’s America. Being neither here nor there renders this multicultural society perpetually excluded, prescribed as an Other, but its experience of the encounter between the old and the new creates a third space, the borderland, which makes possible the crystallization and eventual celebration of this hybrid society’s identity that serves to connect the chasm between the home left behind and the adoptive home. This is evident in Tato Laviera’s “Latero Story,” which speaks of the Chicano experience of having to cross the Mexico-United States border in an effort to escape a Third World poverty, but gleaning from the can picking job that some of these immigrants land, there was not much a change of home, only this time there is a welfare to receive. Cathy Song’s “The Youngest Daughter” also exemplifies this as the persona, her family’s youngest daughter, clings on to the old country’s tradition of having to be the tacitly agreed caretaker of her invalid aging mother but nurtures the new country’s penchant for being modern via the feeling of liberating herself from an entrapping self-denial. Meanwhile, Lucille Clifton’s “In White America” shows how a black person goes on a reading tour for a mostly white audience, a testament that in America, one cannot put boundaries on black people catering to blacks only or white people, to whites only. Racial borders can be crossed, so to speak. In August Wilson’s Fences, the borderland created is the explosion of opportunities for black people during the 1950’s, something that the pre-Civil rights blacks and those born during the first half of the century helped materialize but were not able to experience, making them feel separated from the free blacks in their common land. In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the conflict between white and black society was examined, with the blacks asserting their dream of sharing in and assimilating into this borderland against the racial oppression of the unjust white community. Finally, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony recognizes the borderland through the reality of cultural miscegenation that both challenges the survival of and helps preserve Native American tradition, languages and natural sources.
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