Beyond Literary Landscapes—The Immigrant Experience

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.

Who

This column serves as an introduction to novels concerned with the immigrant experience, a reminder of some classics, and as an inspiration for further reading.

In particular, “[i]mmigrant literature is a genre of its very own, reflecting the journey and experiences of many migrants around the world.”  Topics often “include identity in adopted countries, conflicting loyalties[,] and issues of discrimination and racism.”

Some examples of well-known authors who have covered the immigrant experience include Souvankham Thammavongsa, Silmy Abdullah, Zuleika Reid-Benta, M.G.  Vassanji, and Chimamada Ngozi Adichie.

Other popular authors who have written about the immigrant experience include V.S.  Naipual, Tayeb Salih, Kim Thúy’, and Amy Tan.

What

Some well-known works include Thammavongsa ‘s How to Pronounce Knife: Stories, Abdullah’s Home of the Floating Lilly, Reid-Benta’s Frying Plantain, Vassanji’s No New Land, and Adichie’s Americanah.

Other popular novels include Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

Where

Many of these works are set throughout Canada and the United States, as well as Bangladesh, Thailand, Jamaica, Nigeria, India, and Tanzania.

When

These works often take place during the 21-century.

Why

These novels may be of interest for readers who would like to know more about the immigrant experience, as well as the history, languages, and cultures of various communities.

How

AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the immigrant experience are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 351: Comparative Canadian Literature I, a senior-level, three-credit course, which serves as “an introduction to the study of ethnic minority writing in Canada in the context of the country’s two majority traditions—the English and the French.”  In particular, the course examines topics, such as “the voices of women, national myths and stereotypes, regionalism, and immigration.”  The current course revision includes Vassanji’s No New Land.  (Please note that ENGL 211: Prose Forms and ENGL 212: Poetry and Plays, in addition to course professor approval, is required prior to registering for this course).

In addition, students may consider SOCI 380: Canadian Ethnic Relations, a senior-level, three-credit course, which covers topics, such as The History and Legacy of Ethnic Inequality in Canada, Race and Racism in Canada, and Immigration and Race Relations.  Happy reading!

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