Culturally Displaced

Jhumpa Lahiri, the author of The Third and Final Continent has said, “The question of identity is always a difficult one, but especially for those who are culturally displaced, as immigrants are . . . who grow up in two worlds simultaneously.” Typical among contemporary Latin American authors, Junot Diaz portrays his characters’ Hispanic heritage to at times overwhelm and be superimposed upon an American setting. He often uses untranslated Spanish phrases for emphasis. Although the narrator’s family in his short story Fiesta 1980 has moved to the United States for a better, healthier life, the characters in the story still view the Dominican Republic with great national pride and show a longing to return. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven takes place in America, with a character who is born in America, but is also influenced by his Native American heritage. Does he “grow up in two worlds simultaneously” as Lahiri references in her work, or does he ever feel he “belongs” anywhere? Choose one of these stories (or more, if you wish) and discuss how you think each author uses the American and (each) “native” culture to show connections between the cultures, and also the differences. How do you feel the characters react to/address these issues or situations? Is the character(s) you choose likely to succeed in the path(s) they are on or that they desire? Evidence? These are merely guidelines- feel free to discuss themes, point of view, etc..

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