LITR 5831 Seminar in World / Multicultural Literature:
American Immigrant Literature



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

Question for "How to Date a Browngirl" . . .

How does the main character-speaker seem like an immigrant, like a minority, or something in-between?

minority identity or experience

277 tear gas, mother recognized its smell from the year the United States invaded your island

276 that tia (extended family)

276 government cheese (association with "minority handouts" as opposed to "immigrant opportunity")

276 embarrassing photos of your family, half-naked kids, your cousins (strong connections to old world of home country)

277 sounds like a principal or a police chief (minorities often oppose dominant culture authority figures)


immigrant identity or experience

277 white ones are the ones you want the most (attraction to dominant culture, intermarriage)

+ 278 in truth, you love them more than you love your own

277 out-of-towners, blackgirls who grew up with ballet and Girl Scouts, three cars in driveways (further exploration of in-between identity)

277 if she’s a halfie don’t be surprised if her mother is white (intermarriage!)

277 your busted up Spanish (losing connection to home country, immigrant language)


278 never lose a fight on the first date

278 Uncle Tomming (selling out?)

278 black people . . . Dominicans (the usual questions about separate identity or assimilating identity)





Edwidge Danticat, “Children of the Sea” (IA 98-112)

98 nightmares

98 Haiti is just the way you left it

99 closed the schools since the Army took over

all the other youth federation members have disappeared

manman says hat butterflies can bring news

pregnant girl on board, face covered with scars

the hopelessness of the future in our country

I used to read a lot about America, university exams, Miami

no borderlines on the sea

100 lot of Protestants on this boat . . as Job or the Children of Israel, part the sea for us

some good wanga magic [a magical charm packet found in the folk magic practices of Haiti, and as such it is connected to the West African religion of Vodun, which in turn derives from the Fon people of what is now Benin.] syncretism

you have a name, you have a reputation

our neighbor madan roger came home with her son's head and not much else

the macoutes

101 charcoal layer of sunburn, x-mistaken for Cubans

some Cubans black too

took the Cubans to Miami and sent him back to Haiti

Beloved Haiti, there is no place like you. I had to leave

If I was a girl, maybe I would have been at home

102 all the American factories are closed

slapping me really hard

finally an African, even darker than your father

  102 hoped the Coast Guard would find us soon

103 dreamt I died and went to heaven

starfishes and mermaids

make the son sleep with his mother, a daughter and father

104 you are an educated girl

104 feel like we are sailing for Africa

treat Haitians like dogs in the Bahamas . . . same African fathers

104 cf. slave ships

106 they are the law, law of the land, nothing we can do

sometimes hope is the biggest weapon of all to use against us

107 offering for Agwe, spirit of water

108 Do you remember our silly dreams?

my mother had a kriz

109 choose b/w your father and the man you love

110 you passed

butterflies here, tons of butterflies

111 She threw it overboard

111 I know a coast guard ship is coming. It came to me in my dream

those who have escaped the chains of slavery to form a world beneath the heavens

111 live with Agwe at bottom of sea

112 another boat sank off the cost of the bahamas




Paule Marshall, “The Making of a Writer: From the Poets in the Kitchen” [handout]; Paule Marshall, “To Da-Duh, in Memoriam” (IA 368-377)


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


“To Da-Duh”

368 ship that brought us from NY

alien sights and sounds of Barbados

caught between sunlight at her end of the building and the darkness inside-and for a moment she appeared to contain them both

white dress . . . sense of a past that was still alive

369 darkness . . . in her face

both child and woman, darkness and light, past and present, life and death--all the opposites contained and reconciled in her

369 wiped out the 15 years my mother had been away and restored the old relationship

369 not only did Da-duh prefer boys, but she also liked her grandchildren to be “white,” that is, fair-skinned . . . cousins, the outside children of / white estate managers

girl child takes after her father

370 why I don’t like to go anyplace with you St. Andrews people . . . You all ain’t been colonized”

371 the canes, as giant weeds

I longed for the familiar;A for the street in Brooklyn

St. Thomas canes

371 purchased it with Panama money sent her by her eldest son, my uncle Joseph, who had died working on the canal [colonialism]

372 the names of the trees as though they were those of her gods

my world did seem suddenly lacking

I bet you don't even know that these canes here and the sugar you eat is oen and the same thing. . . . some damn machine at the factory

inexplicably angry motion

I found myself in the middle of a small tropical wood . . . a violent place . . . earth smelled like spring

373 what's this snow like that you hear so much about

a dance called the Truck which was popular back then in the 1930s

as if I were a creature from Mars

374 refrigerators, radios, gas stoves . . .

I beat up a white girl

374 Beating up white people?  Oh the lord, the world’s changing up so I can scarce recognize it anymore

375 Empire State Building

fight went out of her

like a Benin mask, ancient abstract sorrow

376 gazing out at the land as if it were already doomed

died during the famous '37 strike

England sent planes flying low over the island, in a show of force

377 I went to live alone

thunderous tread of machines


Compare Afro-Caribbean immigrants to Hispanic immigrants as "in-between" Immigrant and Minority status

Both Hispanics and Afro-Caribbeans are "New World" or "Inter-American" immigrants. Contrast these groups' varying backgrounds and impacts on racial issues.


Why do we know so little about the Caribbean?

1. So many different nations, each with specific history

2. Perhaps some repression of information from southern interests in the US, who may have shunned knowledge of African revolutions, slave revolts, and mixed-race identities.