LITR 4340 American Immigrant Literature
Homepage & Syllabus  Spring 2019; Mondays 7-9:50
coursesite URL:

Dr. White's homepage

class music

Course Objectives

The immigrant narrative is the standard by which the American multicultural landscape is measured. All Americans are "created equal," but each distinct American identity has a unique history.
The dialogue of these stories defines our past, present, and future as a nation of many nations.

Instructor: Craig White   Office: Bayou 2529-8   

Phone: 281 283 3380     Email:

Office Hours: M 1-4, 7-8; T 4-6 & by appointment

thanks to


terms index

research sources

Model Assignments

Course Policies; Disabilities Provisions; Final Grade Report

Attendance policy: You are expected to attend every scheduled class meeting but are permitted one free cut without comment or penalty.

More than one absence jeopardizes your status in the course. If you continue to cut or miss, drop the course.

Even with medical or other emergency excuses, high numbers of absences or partial absences will result in a lower or failing course grade.

Attendance is taken primarily through reading quizzes.

Required texts for purchase:

Brown & Ling, eds. Imagining America: Stories from the Promised Land (Persea, Rev. ed., 2003) ISBN-10: 0892552778 ISBN-13: 978-0892552771

Gordon Hutner, ed. Immigrant Voices, Vol. 2 (NAL, 2015) ISBN-10: 0451472810 ISBN-13: 978-0451472816

+ texts online, PDF emails & handouts—see schedule below


weekly reading quizzes + participation (10+%)

20 February: Midterm 1 w/ research proposal (20-30%)

27 March: Midterm 2 + start research report (20-30%)

1 May: final exam w/ complete research report (40-50%)

(letter grades only; final grades not calculated mathematically)

Student Presentations: Index & Overall Requirements

Discussion leader

Poetry reader

Model Assignments Highlights

Silent Grade for presentations, participation, preparation, postings, attendance.  (10-20%).

Maps of North America

Reading & Presentation Schedule, spring 2018
(to be updated for spring 2019)

IA = Imagining America anthology

IV2 = Immigrant Voices, vol. 2 anthology

Course Objectives

Maps of North America

Tuesday, 16 January: (University closed, class canceled due to winter storm)

introduction, overview, immigration history, terms, readings

Students provide contact information with presentation preferences

Readings: Anzia Yezierska, excerpt from Bread Givers (1912)

Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, The African

Reading Discussion leader(s): instructor

Poem: Gregory Djanikian, "In the Elementary School Choir"    Poetry reader: instructor

Agenda: introduction, website / syllabus, overview narrative, dialogue > questions

assignments, presentations, model assignments

student information, presentation preferences + roll


course framework / progression; history of immigration

sample texts of the American Immigrant Narrative / American Dream


Wm Blake, Adam (early immigrants are sometimes characterized as "a new Adam" reborn in America as another garden of Eden)

Possible discussion questions: 1. Familiarity with immigrant story personally or as a student?

2. How to identify the American immigrant story? What images, symbols, or story-lines (narratives)? Past, present, future?

3. What cultural or political issues involved in teaching American Immigrant literature?

4. Are the immigrant narrative and the American Dream the same story?

Concluding exercise: 2-3 students review the immigrant narrative in the course's terms and your own, citing today's examples, personal examples (witnessed or experienced), or previous readings. What stood out for you and how did you connect it to what you already know or believe?

Default questions for every class:

1. Our course primarily studies immigrant & minority identities in terms of ethnicity, but why does gender identity emerge as in immigrant / multicultural studies? Consider tradition > modernity.

2. How does the immigrant narrative identify itself, with what variations? How identical or inseparable is it to or from the American Dream? May the Immigrant Narrative / American Dream be criticized as well as celebrated?

3. How successfully may the immigrant narrative serve as a measurement for American multicultural identities and narratives?

4. Is it fair to assume "all individuals are created equal" while also assuming that our histories make us different? What are the appeals and perils of "equal but different?'

5. Can something great and not gross be made of our texts' frequent references to food? Can this be related to homelands as scent-memories and America as land of no-smell, disinfectant, or "soap and water?"

Anzia Yezierska, 1880-1970

Tuesday, 23 January: Examples of the classic / standard American Immigrant Narrative

Readings: Anzia Yezierska, “Soap and Water”

Nicholasa Mohr, “The English Lesson” (IA 21-34)

Anchee Min, from The Cooked Seed (IV2 193-215)

Reading Discussion leader(s):  instructor

Poem: Joseph Papaleo, “American Dream: First Report”

Poetry reader: instructor

Agenda: missed class, syllabus, objectives, presentations, exams

quiz 1 sample

[short break]

discussion leader assignment > instructor models

discussion questions

[short break]

poetry reading assignment > Papaleo poem


Nicholasa Mohr
(b. 1938, Nuyorican Bronx)

Discussion Questions:

1. How does each story embody the immigrant story as an identifiable narrative or story-sequence? What symbols can be identified in and across both stories?

2. If you liked these stories, why? What cultural values or symbols? What "myths" or cultural narratives?

3. Can we celebrate yet criticize the immigrant narrative? What are the potential downsides to these stories? Who is left out? If we're reluctant to criticize, what testimony to power of cultural narrative?

  • Celebrate: "Soap & Water," "The English Lesson," and The Cooked Seed are all popular, pleasant reads. Can this pleasure and populism be related to the American immigrant narrative and the American Dream? Why do we like these stories so much?

  • Criticize: What potentially dark or disturbing forces may be at work in the story of "The English Lesson," and how does the text avoid highlighting them? In "Soap and Water," is it possible to validate the villains? What cultural values or roles do they represent?

4. Where do minority (obj. 3), "Model Minority," (2b), & New World immigrant (3e) identities appear in these stories? With what characters, positions, or symbols is the dominant culture identified (Obj. 4)?

Next 3 classes: How does the minority narrative differ from the immigrant story?

Tuesday, 30 January: African American Minority Narrative (NOT immigrant but "True Minority," except for Ihedigbo, who is African immigrant i.e., not descended from forced migration and slavery)

reading assignments: Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, The African (read first two chapters at least)

Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson” (IA 145-152)

Alice Walker, “Elethia” (IA 307-309)

Dr. Rose Ihedigbo, from Sandals in the Snow (IV2 149-172)

African American history as minority and immigrant

Reading Discussion leader(s): Greg Bellomy (Equiano &/or Ihedigbo) ; Clark Omo (Bambara &/or Walker)

Poem: Patricia Smith, "Blonde White Women"

Poetry reader: Grant Gitschlag

Agenda: presentations, preview schedule & assignments, midterm1 (eval. standards)

minority; Declaration

African American history as minority and immigrant

quiz  + grade explanation [break]

texts discussion: Greg, Clark


poetry: Grant

"model minority" (incl. Ihedigbo)




Toni Cade Bambara

Discussion Questions: 1. Especially in the Equiano text, contrast and compare the immigrant and minority narrative. How do the origin stories of African Americans differ from immigrant origins?

1a. When Africans arrive in America, what is different about their status compared to immigrants' status?

1b. If the immigrant narrative or American Dream constitutes the social contract for the USA's dominant culture, what different social contract applies to African America?

2. Compared to the "Melting Pot" by which immigrants become assimilated or "Americanized" after a generation or more, Black and White America remain two somewhat distinct cultures despite centuries on the same continent, with comparatively little intermarriage. If the African American past differs from the immigrant past, what about the future?

2a. Should African America follow the immigrant narrative of assimilation and forgetting the past of slavery for the sake of joining a hypermodern society hurrying into the future? What would American culture overall gain or lose if African America were absorbed into the USA's dominant culture?

3. What images of the dominant culture appear in African American literature?

4. The Ihedigbo text is a new addition to the course. How does it exemplify the immigrant narrative instead of the African American minority narrative? In what ways may it still resemble the African American minority narrative or identity?

Olaudah Equiano

Tuesday, 6 February: "Model Minority": East Asian Immigrants ("Ideal Immigrant" Narrative, not real or true minority)

reading assignment: Sui Sin Far, "In the Land of the Free" (IA 3-11)

Gish Jen, “In the American Society” (IA 158-171)

J. Christine Moon, "'What Color would you Like, Ma'am?"'

Le Ly Hayslip, from Child of War, Woman of Peace (IV2 105-125); Le Ly Hayslip author page

Dr. White's "model minority" site;

Reading Discussion leader(s): Annie Tran; Tammy Tran


Agenda: assignments, Midterm 1, Model Assignments:

class style and use of web, objective on immigration and education > research report topics for midterm1,

African American history as minority or immigrant

model minority

quiz & [break]

discussion: Annie Tran, Tammy Tran

compare minority & immigrant narrative

gender question?

Gish Jen, b. 1955

Discussion Questions: 1. How do these stories exemplify the model minority or "ideal immigrant" narrative? Compare stories' endings to "Soap & Water" as Jewish-American model minority narrative.

2. Compare / contrast to minority texts by African Americans. What different attitudes do immigrants have toward assimilation? What opportunities for advancement or progress?

3. What generational differences in immigrant families? What continuities & changes b/w Old & New Worlds? What evidence of a traditional culture surviving and adapting to a modern culture?

4. What relationships do the Asian American characters have with other racial / ethnic groups?

5. How is the "model minority" stereotype useful or limiting?

Sui Sin Far, 1865-1914

Tuesday, 13 February: American Indian minority narrative (NOT immigrant but real or true minority)

reading assignments: Handsome Lake, How the White Man Came to America

Leslie Marmon Silko, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” (IA 205-209)

Louise Erdrich, "American Horse" (IA 210-220)

Mei Mei Evans, “Gussuk” (IA 237-251) (Yahoo blog on "Gussuk")

American Indians as minority and / or immigrant > Trail of Tears

Reading Discussion leader(s): Tanner House

Web Review: : instructor

Poem: Chrystos, “I Have Not Signed a Treaty with the United States Government”

Poetry reader: Tammy Tran

Model Assignments Highlights (midterm1 Essays): Anne Ngo

Agenda: assignments (Soto handout); New World + Reyna Grande

review: "model minority" / ideal immigrants; waves of immigration

American Indians as minority, plus or minus immigrant

Maps of Native America; Trail of Tears

poem: Tammy



discussion questions & texts: Tanner

acculturation; syncretism

midterm; use links; demonstrate learning

Model Assignments: Anne

Louise Erdrich, b. 1954

Discussion Questions:

1. In the texts today, how does American Indian culture appear as minority rather than immigrant? Note relations to state, government, immigration, etc.

1a. Compare Handsome Lake to Olaudah Equiano as a minority origin story.

2. Compare and contrast today's texts to immigrant stories or poems so far. How does the American Indian's position in or relation to American history or society differ from the positions and attitudes of immigrants?

3. Compare to African American literature as opposition or resistance rather than assimilation to white society? But what differences from African American literature and culture?

3a. Based on these texts, what accommodations or acculturations do American Indians make to dominant or immigrant American culture? How do these accommodations or acculturations resemble or differ from assimilation?

3b. Last week in "Land of the Free" and this week in "American Horse" you have government separating a child from his mother. How do the parents' attitudes and the child's reaction reflect the difference between immigrants ("Land of Free") and minorities ("American Horse")?

4. Minorities maintain traditional cultures with extended families, while immigrants join a modern culture with nuclear families or individuals. How do these distinct traditional-modern styles appear in today's stories?

Leslie Marmon Silko,
b. 1948

Tuesday, 20 February: Midterm 1: Essay on minority & immigrant narratives, Web Highlights, & Research Report Proposal due by Thursday, 22 February, 11:59pm)

Next 3 class meetings to Midterm2: New World Immigrants as mix of immigrant & minority

New World Immigrants
(Hispanic or Afro-Caribbean)
as immigrant + minority?

(Maps of Caribbean)

Tuesday, 27 February: Mexican Americans: Immigrant or Minority?

Web Review (instructor): Mexican Americans as immigrant, minority, or both; history of Mexico

Reading asignments: Gary Soto, “Like Mexicans” (Handout + email PDF file )

Nash Candelaria, "El Patron" (IA 221-228)

Sandra Cisneros, "Barbie-Q" (IA 252-253)

Reyna Grande, from The Distance Between Us (IV2 83-104); Reyna Grande author page

Reading Discussion leader(s): Ruth Brown ("Like" &/or "El");  Logan Blair ("Barbie-Q" &/or Distance)

Poem: Pat Mora, “Immigrants" or Gary Soto, "Mexicans Begin Jogging"

Poetry reader: Annie Tran (“Immigrants" )

Agenda: midterm1 > midterm2 (research sources) > final exam;

assignments > New World Immigrants;

Mexican Americans as immigrant, minority, or both; history of Mexico

poetry: Annie

quiz + break

discussion: Ruth, Logan

critical thinking and literary devices

Sandra Cisneros
b. 1954

Discussion Questions:   

1. Historically and in our texts, how do Mexican Americans combine immigrant and minority cultures or narratives?

1a. How do Mexican Americans either assimilate or acculturate?—that is, either convert completely to dominant-culture institutions or values, or adapt them selectively while retaining elements of their own culture?

2. Recent  literary and cultural criticism describes Mexican Americans as a "border people" or "border culture" (Spanish frontera). How do our texts represent Mexican Americans as a people on the "border" of two cultures? (See Gloria Anzaldua.)

3. Based on the texts and broader experience, how are Mexican Americans changing (or being changed by) the USA?

4. Literary questions re genre: compare "El Patron" to a sit-com or situation comedy (e.g., Cosby ShowFriends, The Office)

4a. Coming-of-age stories (a.k.a. "initiation stories") are common to all cultures but especially prevalent in Mexican American literature. Why? What factors in Mexican American or border culture determine this focus on the transition from childhood to adulthood?

Nash Candelaria,
b. 1928

Tuesday, 6 March:  Other Hispanic Americans: Immigrant or Minority?

Class readings:

Junot Diaz, "How to Date a Browngirl . . . “ (IA 276-279)

Oscar Hijuelos, “Visitors, 1965” (IA 310-325) (Obituary for Oscar Hijuelos, d. 12 Oct. 2013)

Judith Ortiz Cofer, "Silent Dancing" [handout / PDF via email]

New World Immigrants

Reading Discussion leader(s): Jojo Hunter ("How to"); Tori Boone ("Visitors" &/or "Silent")

Poem: Martin Espada, “Coca-Cola and Coco Frio”

Poetry reader: Clark Omo

Model Assignments Highlights: Taylor Prejean (choose from 2016 midterm2 essays and / or report starts, or 2013 midterm2 essays and / or report starts)

Agenda: midterm1 samples, immigrant-minority distinctions > midterm2

Model assignments: Taylor

Critical thinking; Objectives; Minority; immigrant; New World Immigrants; Hispanic / Latino; assignments


poetry: Clark

quiz + break

discussion: Tori & Jojo + instructor (dominant culture)

spring break!


Junot Diaz
b. 1968

Discussion Questions: 1. How do today's stories reflect a cultural identity or narrative for Hispanics that combines a status as minorities and immigrants, or somewhere between? 

2. Question for "How to Date a Browngirl": How does the main character-narrator seem like an immigrant, like a minority, or something in-between? What symbols indicate these competing identities? (Characters can be symbolic too.)

3. Question for "Silent Dancing": As far as immigrant or minority identity, in what different directions is the family pulled? How much or they assimilating, or not? What different values, symbols, or identities are associated with assimilating to the dominant culture or staying with the ethnic culture?

4. Question for "Visitors, 1965": Cuba is very close geographically to the USA, and many Cuban immigrants regarded themselves more as "exiles" from the Communist Castro regime who would eventually return to Cuba. In the story, how do the attitudes of different Cuban immigrant generations change toward assimilation or maintenance of traditional values and identity, esp. re the family? 

Judith Ortiz Cofer
b. 1952

13 March: no class meeting—Spring Break!

Tuesday, 20 March: Afro-Caribbean Immigrants: Minorities or Immigrants?

Reading assignments: Edwidge Danticat (Haiti), “Children of the Sea” (IA 98-112)

Paule Marshall (Barbadoes), “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen” [PDF email / handout]

Paule Marshall, “To Da-Duh, in Memoriam” (IA 368-377)

Afro-Caribbean identity as immigrant and minority

Reading Discussion leader(s): Ryan Smith

Web Review: "Edwidge Danticat: By the Book" (interview): instructor

Poem(s): Claude McKay, "America" & "The White City" from Harlem Shadows (McKay b. Jamaica 1889-d. Chicago 1948; McKay's Harlem Shadows often recognized as inaugural book of Harlem Renaissance.)

Poetry reader:  Kirstyn Bullington

Agenda: assignments; Course Objectives

New World Immigrant > Afro-Caribbean

poetry: Kirstyn

quiz & break

discussion: Ryan


Paule Marshall
b. 1929

Benin mask, 16c. West Africa

Discussion Questions: 1. For all 3 fictions and the poems, discuss co-presence or crossing of minority & immigrant identities, and the symbols of the Color Code as an operative agent for immigrants and minorities.

2. Edwidge Danticat, “Children of the Sea” (IA 98-112): Haiti is the most African of New World nations, and the one whose immigrants American authorities repel the most systematically.

Note remembrance of African gods and confusion of immigrant boat with slave ship.

How does the story evoke a minority narrative both at home in Haiti, and in terms of reception by the USA? How does this change the immigrant narrative?

3. Paule Marshall, “To Da-Duh, in Memoriam” (IA 368-377): set in Barbadoes. How does "Da-Duh" (the narrator's grandmother) accept and express minority attitudes? How does her grand-daughter express immigrant attitudes including assimilation?

4. Paule Marshall, “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen”: How is the narrator pulled back and forth between assimilation to the dominant culture and connection to her African heritage? How is this mixed identity reflected in what she reads and what those readings mean to her? 

Edwidge Danticat
b. 1969

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, 1872-1906

Tuesday, 27 March: Midterm 2: essay on New World immigrants + begin research report (email deadline Thursday, 29 March 11:59pm)

Last 4 classes to final exam: America's Dominant or "Settler" Culture
+ one more "Model Minority"

Questions for immigrant studies re USA's dominant or "settler" culture: What kind of culture do immigrants join or assimilate to?

Are American systems and values universal, or are they restricted by racial / ethnic, cultural, or class descent?

Do earlier immigrant-settler cultures trust later immigrants with their institutions?

How does immigration history shape the identities of early European settlers?

Tuesday, 3 April:  America's Dominant Culture

Reading assignments: dominant culture term-page

preview table of contents for Of Plymouth Plantation

John Winthrop, "A Model of Christian Charity" (1629)

Crevecoeur, "What is an American?" & "Description of Charles-Town: Thoughts on Slavery . . . " (1782) 

 J.D. Vance, "Introduction," Hillbilly Elegy (PDF handout + email); J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy page (> Scotch-Irish)

Reading Discussion leader(s): instructor; (Crevecoeur) Umaymah Shahid, LITR MA student

Web Review: selections of U.S. Declaration of Independence & U.S. Constitution re immigration; Protestant Work Ethic; Protestantism; white flight; the white South; Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776); whiteness studies; Great Awakening

Web Reviewer: instructor

Agenda: midterms update; preview final exam; review objectives

dominant culture website; waves of American immigration; dominant culture waves

periods > 17c / Reformation > Enlightenment

Constitution (1789) and Declaration (1776) > Crevecoeur (1782): Umaymah Shahid

quiz > break

preview assignments "Pilgrim Fathers" & "Founding Fathers" > Weber; Puritans; Protestant Reformation

Winthrop > Pilgrim assignments

preview Scotch-Irish

discuss Hillbilly Elegy


Puritan / Pilgrim couple

re-creation of the Mayflower

Background: Today's texts describe journeys and identities of British immigrants, primarily in the 1600s & 1700s, and the different styles or ideologies they contributed to the USA's dominant culture.

Discussion Questions: 1. If these immigrants form the early American dominant culture, what kind of culture do later immigrants assimilate to? What are its principles, beliefs, and values?

2. How much are the dominant culture's principles and values universal? How much are they unique and limited to people or cultures of European descent? How adaptable or accessible are the Founders' principles to assimilation of multiple cultures or ethnicities? How much is this system "rigged," and how much is it transparent, meritocratic, and open to progress or adaptation?

3. What is the literary value of today's readings? Where do they line up on the Literature as entertainment and education spectrum? What moments offer reading pleasure and why? Where does learning become pleasurable? What attitudes toward using literature as a means of studying history and culture?

Questions for specific texts:

3. Winthrop: What model of society does Winthrop's sermon propose as the goal of the Puritans' immigration? What balance do the Puritans make between individual and community?

3b. How do the Puritans' & Pilgrims' founding of New England in the 1600s model different aspects of the USA's dominant culture, specifically the USA as a God-blessed land with Americans as God's chosen people, and American progressivism or liberalism? (Abolition, women's rights, Progressivism, the New Deal, the Kennedys, higher education, etc. all flourish in New England, though most people think of Puritans as conservatives.)

4. Crevecoeur (with the Declaration and Constitution) in the 1700s saw the USA a "nation of many nations" founded on universal principles derived not from traditional religion but from "laws of nature" (the Enlightenment). What are the appeals and limits of such principles? What controversies?

4a. For Crevecoeur, what are the scope and limits of the melting pot or assimilation to the emergent dominant culture? How does he identify different Northern and Southern identities for the USA's dominant culture?

4b. How are both Northern and Southern cultures immigrant cultures based on voluntary immigration, assimilation, and self-interested labor and ownership, and African American slaves as a minority whose origins are involuntary separation from their homeland and forced labor for others without self-interest or profit?

5. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy is a recent expression of white or Anglo culture from the Scotch-Irish, who immigrated from Northern Britain in the later 1700s. What is the profile of these white people compared to the New England Puritans in the 1600s or the USA's Founders in the 1700s? In what ways may the Scotch-Irish resemble the USA's dominant culture and a minority culture? (Rust Belt maps)

drafting the Declaration

Reactionary Hillbillies pose before
a Jeffersonian mansion

Tuesday, 10 April: The Pilgrims as early model of the dominant culture

Reading assignments: William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (through ch. 12 on Thanksgiving)

 J.D. Vance, Chapter 9, Hillbilly Elegy (PDF email + handout); J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy page (> Scotch-Irish)

Reading Discussion leader(s): Tanner House

Poem: Enid Dame, “On the Road to Damascus, Maryland"

Poetry reader: Carrie Hutton

Web Review (instructor): Scotch-Irish (w/ Scots-Irish Immigration); diaspora; Michael Lind, "The White South's Last Defeat" Salon 5 Feb. 2013; Joan Walsh, "What's the Matter with White People?"; "Whites earn more than three-fourths of the nation’s income"; demographic transition; plain style; Brad Plumer, "Americans still move around more than anyone else in the world" Washington Post 15 May 2013

Model Assignments Highlights : Breanna Runnels (final exam essays from 2016 or 2013)

Agenda: midterms, model assignments > final exam

web review: Breanna


dominant culture, Puritans, Scotch-Irish

poetry: Carrie

quiz + break


Hillbilly Elegy  

discussion: Tanner


Sam Houston

Discussion Questions: 1. How do the opening chapters of Plymouth Plantation describe qualities or styles that will mark the USA's dominant culture? How does Puritanism embody Protestantism, and what does Protestantism contribute to forming the USA's dominant culture?

2. How does the Pilgrims' sojourn in the Netherlands resemble a traditional immigrant story? Why is it significant to the Dominant Culture that the Pilgrims reject that model in order to go to North America?

3. The immigrant narrative emphasizes heroic individualism, but the Pilgrims migrate as a community, and they suffer and survive together as a community. Americans today emphasize individualism but celebrate occasions when we stand together and act as a community, as after 9/11 or after natural disasters. Compare the Pilgrims' narrative of their journey and hard beginnings in North America.

3b. How does the United States function as a "community of individuals?"

4. Questions for J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy, ch. 9: How much does Vance's story belong in Immigrant Literature? What crises and transformations are comparable to other immigrant narratives in this course? What is the value of learning the Scotch-Irish dimension of the USA's dominant culture?

4b. Combined with Plymouth Plantation, how does Hillbilly Elegy provide a composite sense of the USA's dominant culture and a sense of its strengths and limits?







Tuesday, 17 April: Pilgrims & Exodus model of dominant-culture migration

Readings: William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (complete)

Parallels between the Exodus story and the Pilgrims (review)

The Triumphant Decline of the WASP (WASP) (read)

Instructor reviews: memoir & anthropological study re USA's dominant culture (C-Span Book TV)

memoir: Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (2018)

anthropology: Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in their own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right(2016); Rich Benjamin, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America

Cavaliers / Aristocrats on immigration, etc.: Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith, U.S. Constitution, Ben Franklin on German immigrants,

Reading Discussion leader(s):

Poem: Hamod (Sam), “After the Funeral of Assam Hamady”

Poetry reader: Anne Ngo

Model Assignments Highlights: Clark Omo (final research reports from 2016 or 2013)

Agenda: Westover, white flight

assignments, final exam > models: Clark

review Hillbilly Elegy, Scotch-Irish; Scotch-Irish Immigration

poem: Anne

[break + quiz]


Pilgrims, Protestantism, Exodus, Immigrant

Cavaliers (dominant culture waves)

The Triumphant Decline of the WASP (WASP)



Moses receiving 10 Commandments

Discussion Questions: 1. How do the Pilgrims both exemplify the American immigrant story and vary from it? How do their variations make them exemplify the USA's dominant culture?

2. What are the attractions and threats of comparing the Pilgrims' experience to that of the ancient Israelites' Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land? What prestige comes from the association, but also what cultural limits? How is the USA's dominant culture comparable to or different from that of the ancient Jews or the early Christians?

3. How do the Pilgrims relate to American Indians—-i.e., the culture and population that pre-existed them in America or the Promised Land? How does the American Indians' backstory—provided mostly in annotations to Bradford's text—correspond to or call into question the Pilgrims' perception of their presence as part of the divine plan? How does the American Indians' backstory qualify as a minority identity or narrative?

3a. What is your impression of the Pilgrims' "First Thanksgiving?" (12.12) How to evaluate in light of Dominant Culture-American Indian relations?

4. How or to what extent do the Pilgrims / Puritans contribute to the creation of the USA's dominant culture? What consistencies or differences between the "Pilgrim Fathers" and the "Founding Fathers?" (literacy, Protestantism; middle-class community vs. freemarket individualism)

5. "Triumphant Decline of the WASP": Apply to question, Are American systems and values universal, or are they limited by race or ethnic descent? (Universal values < The Enlightenment)

Indian Corn

Tuesday, 24 April: More “Model Minorities”: Indian & Pakistani American Literature

Readings: Chitra Divakaruni, “Silver Pavements, Golden Roofs” (70-83)

Tahira Naqvi, “Thank God for the Jews” (IA 229-236)

Bharati Mukherjee, “A Wife’s Story” (IA 57-69)

Shoba Narayan, from Monsoon Diary (IV2 217-239)

Review Model Minorities

Reading Discussion leader(s): Justin Butler

Poem: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, “Restroom"

Poetry reader: (canceled)

Agenda: final class! > changes for spring 2019

copies of final exam

dominant culture / dominant culture waves

Founders / Cavaliers / Aristocrats on immigration, etc.: Crevecoeur, "What is an American?; Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith, U.S. Constitution, Ben Franklin on German immigrants,

[quiz + break & evaluations]

South Asia (maps of India)

Model Minority

texts discussion: Justin


Chitra Divakaruni,
b. 1956

Background: South Asian immigrants are another "model immigrant group," a. k. a. "Model Minorities"—compare East Asian groups (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans) from fifth class meeting.

Also, Since India was a British colony, many Indian and Pakistani immigrants arrive with special English skills and other advantages. What effect on the South Asian immigrant narrative?

Discussion question(s): 1. How do today's stories exemplify the immigrant narrative? How do the identities represent Model Minorities or "ideal immigrants?"

2. How do these groups already resemble the USA's dominant culture? What attitudes toward true minorities appear?

Background: Indian-Americans (not American Indians) are probably the most distinguished group of immigrant authors around the millennium era, winning Pulitzer Prizes and gaining considerable international prestige comparable to Jewish-American immigrant writers a century ago; e.g., Jhumpa Lahiri (b. 1967, Interpreter of Maladies Pulitzer Prize 1999 & The Namesake 2003); many others.

3. Why? What history contributes to Indian-Americans' prestige and quality?

Tahira Naqvi

Tuesday, 1 May: official date of final exam: no class meeting; complete Essay 1 including dominant culture, web highlights, + complete research report (email deadline noon, Thursday 3 May)




Reid Wilson, "22 Things the American Community Survey taught us about Foreign-Born Residents." Washington Post, 19 Sept. 2013.

"Still Puritan After All These Years" (2012)

Amanda Taub, interview with Michael Ignatieff re Globalism and Nationalism 

Racial Progress Is Real. But So Is Racist Progress.

U.S. Has Highest Share of Foreign-Born Since 1910,
With More Coming From Asia

Why the Announcement of a Looming White Minority Makes Demographers Nervous