[With about 150 papers and 60 exams to grade in the next week, I’m anticipating that many of my posts over that time will be quicker hits, reflections on the end of a semester. This is the fifth of those!]
In my Ethnic American literature class this semester, I got the chance to teach a wide variety of very impressive authors, including Mary Doyle Curran, Sandra Cisneros, Martín Espada, and Amy Tan. In my American Literature II survey course, the roster of greats included Nella Larsen and Jhumpa Lahiri. Those aren’t the only amazing American voices with whom we engaged in those two courses, but I’m highlighting the six of them because they all have at least one significant experience and element of identity in common: they’re the children of immigrants, folks who either came to the United States with their families at a very young age or were born here to recent immigrant arrivals. Many of the precise details of those immigrations differ of course, including the reasons for the migrations, the places and social words to which they came, and the legality of their parents’ and families’ immigrations. But none of those unique and significant American voices would be a part of our literary history, would I be able to share with my classes and students and continue to learn from myself, had they and their families not been able to stay and grow and succeed in America from those immigrant starting points.
I read a story this morning about a couple of conservative Democrats who are running for office by, at least in part, trying to smear their incumbent Republican opponents (including Senator Richard Lugar) as supporters of the DREAM Act, the proposed Congressional law that would offer the opportunity to achieve citizenship to young Americans who came to the United States with their families illegally at a very young age (below 16), have graduated high school, and are planning either to attend college or to enlist in the military (among other requirements, as spelled out at the link below). It’s true that some Republicans such as Senator Lugar once supported, and in fact co-sponsored, the Act; it’s also the case that all of those Republicans have withdrawn their support as of this writing. But the attacks are smears not because of those position changes, but because they play into many Americans’ most xenophobic and ugly attitudes about immigrant Americans. All those who could benefit from the DREAM Act are, like the authors I discussed above, young Americans who exemplify the best of what our country is and can be, people from around the world who have grown into impressive maturity here and hope to contribute (through their education, their service, their very identities and voices) to our national community and future. There’s no opposition to the Act that doesn’t depend not only on blatant falsehoods about it (which it always does) but also on images of these young people that are so far from, indeed deeply opposite to, the realities of their profoundly exemplary and American situations and lives. More tomorrow,
PS. Two links to start with:
1) Full details of the DREAM Act: http://dreamact.info/students
2) OPEN: What do you think?
Which Larsen did you assign?ReplyDelete