Lit Life:
“Immigrant Fiction”
12 September 2013

¶ At the Book Review, Jhumpa Lahiri puts a new spin on the idea of immigrant fiction.

What immigrant fiction has been the most important to you, both personally and as an inspiration for your own writing?

I don’t know what to make of the term “immigrant fiction.” Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. And it just so happens that many writers originate from different parts of the world than the ones they end up living in, either by choice or by necessity or by circumstance, and therefore, write about those experiences. If certain books are to be termed immigrant fiction, what do we call the rest? Native fiction? Puritan fiction? This distinction doesn’t agree with me. Given the history of the United States, all American fiction could be classified as immigrant fiction. Hawthorne writes about immigrants. So does Willa Cather. From the beginnings of literature, poets and writers have based their narratives on crossing borders, on wandering, on exile, on encounters beyond the familiar. The stranger is an archetype in epic poetry, in novels. The tension between alienation and assimilation has always been a basic theme.

We agree up to a point. We wouldn’t say this of William Faulkner or Dawn Powell, or almost anybody later than they.

One Response to “Lit Life:
“Immigrant Fiction”
12 September 2013

  1. Iyan says:

    This intreducos a pleasingly rational point of view.

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