English Faculty Publications

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Multiethnic American Literatures: Essays for Teaching Context and Culture


About the book: This book provides original essays that suggest ways to engage students in the classroom with the cultural factors of American literature. Some of the essays focus on individual authors’ works, others view American literature more broadly, and still others focus on the application of culturally based methods for reading. All suggest a closer look at how ethnicity, culture and pedagogy interact in the classroom to help students better understand the complexity of works by African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and several other sometimes overlooked American cultural groups.

Abstract for Tereza M. Szeghi's essay: In March of 2007, Sherman Alexie addressed attendees of the Native American Literature Symposium at the Saginaw Chippewa Community Center in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Whereas other audiences I have seen him address included members of the local community, high school and college students, and a smattering of academics, this audience was comprised primarily of academic critics of American Indian literature. The first words Alexie spoke, as he gripped the podium, suggested that he had prepared a response to some of the dominant strains of negative criticism he has received from scholars and that he felt this was his moment to speak directly to his accusers.

"I do not speak in stereotypes;' Alexie asserted, with a hint of the anger referenced in the epigraph (shown in the published version). He repeated this statement several times in staccato, each iteration separated by biographical details-memories of such traumas as the loss of family members to alcoholism, house fires, car accidents, and disease. In short, he performed the rejoinder he has offered frequently in interviews when confronted with the accusation that he harms American Indians by perpetuating stereotypes about them. Alexie has responded time and again by noting that his life experiences are not stereotypes; they are realities. The audience experienced Alexie's preface to his reading in stunned, or at least forbearing, silence.

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From Multiethnic American Literatures: Essays for Teaching Context and Culture, Edited by Helane Adams Androne. Chapter is made available by permission of McFarland & Company, Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640.


McFarland & Co.

Place of Publication

Jefferson, NC