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Roy Goldblatt, Jopi Nyman and John A. Stotesbury. Close Encounters of an Other Kind: New Perspectives on Race, Ethnicity and American Studies

Roy Goldblatt, Jopi Nyman and John A. Stotesbury. Close Encounters of an Other Kind: New Perspectives on Race, Ethnicity and American Studies. Joensuu: University of Joensuu, 2005. Pp. xv, 278.

Close Encounters of an Other Kind provides the scholars of the field with an opportunity to have access to a real "trans-national" array of articles on race and ethnicity as negotiated in North American literature, culture and history (by North America is meant the broad locale including Canada, the US and the Caribbean). This volume is a compilation of twenty-four essays - helpfully articulated around four axes or sections - and a brief "Afterword", penned by Amritjit Singh which closes the book. A common pitfall in ambitious projects (both in scope and length) such as this tends to be the disparate nature of contributions, with the logical corollary that not every one of them manages to keep the desired standards of rigorous, original and high-quality scholarly work. However, in this particular case it has to be acknowledged that most essays in the collection prove to be innovative and offer us insightful readings of American literature and/or history. And yet, there remain a few articles that fail to achieve the necessary depth of analysis - admittedly, on the whole, due to their insufficient length. All in all, the volume remains a valuable contribution to the field of ethnic and American studies, an ever-evolving area of studies that like multiculaturalism, as Amritjit Singh contends, "is here to stay".

Part I of the book, devoted to Asian America literature, opens with Silvia Schultermandl's ""What am I, anyhow?" Ethnic Consciousness, Matrilineage and the Borderlands-Within in Maxine Hong Kingston's and Rebecca Walker's Autobiographies". The author takes up the by-now familiar concept of in-betweenness as constructed by "hyphenated" American authors. She also dwells in the recurrent mother-daughter relationships that inhabit - and usually haunt - most women autobiographies. What is altogether new is her step-by-step comparison of the now-classic The Woman Warrior, by Kingston, with the more recent autobiography by Alice Walker's daughter, Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self (2001). Schultermandl concludes that the narrators in both autobiographies eventually opt to "map" their identities "along political rather than ethnic parameters," that is, they end up giving preference to active personal choice over passive (biological) inheritance.

Noelle Brada-Williams's insightful essay examines the work of two young Asian American writers, Chang-rae Lee and Gish Jen. Brada-Williams chooses Lee's Native Speaker and Jen's "Birthmates" as test cases for Claire Jean Kim's depiction of Asian American racial structure. The article presents the reader with an in-depth analysis of the interethnic relationships that the protagonists in both texts either attempt to forge or are circumstantially burdened with. Brada-Williams describes how the "old syntax" of black vs white, together with the "old narratives" of anti-immigrant chauvinism, shape most contemporary attitudes and points out the pessimistic stance both texts share: "The outlook on changing received paradigms for Asian Americans is pessimistic in both Lee's and Jen's works. In both works the protagonists['] children, their very hopes for the future, do not survive."

In "Beyond Black and White: Striving for Visibility in Tripmaster Monkey by Maxine Hong Kingston and Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee", Klara Szmanko complements Brada-Williams's study. Szmanko digs into these two Asian American novels in order to pull out their common thread of interracial power dynamics. The author argues that both Tripmaster Monkey and Native Speaker foreground the similarities and contrasts between Asian Americans and African Americans, and, on most occasions, the black-white dynamics erase any other "color". The main character in Kingston's novel, for instance, stands for Asian American cultural nationalism and its admiration for African American's social visibility and cultural distinctiveness. Lee's novel goes further and openly accuses mainstream America of pitting African Americans and Korean Americans against each other. Szmanko comes to the conclusion that "[w]hites are not only responsible for the invisibility of various minorities in American society, but also for their invisibility to each other".

Serena Fusco's essay attempts to move, as its title predicts, "Beyond Minority Discourse" in its interpretation of an Asian/American novel, Nieh Hualing's Mulberry and Peach. After pointing out the increasingly conspicuous "diasporic shift" in Asian American studies, Fusco eloquently reads "Mulberry/Peach's subjectivity", that is, the protagonist's split personality, "as a site of struggle among multiple power discourses": Chinese (gendered) nationalism and sinocentrism, US assimilationism and (gendered) imperialism. Thus, Mulberry and Peach is interpreted not only as an allegory of contemporary China's exilic identity (the sinocentric approach), but also as a variation on the "assimilationist paradigm" (the US-centered reading). Ultimately, Fusco maintains, the novel "casts immigration and diaspora - elsewhere read as conflicting paradigms - as fundamentally interconnected."

Jenni Valjento's essay again chooses to address the issue of interracial/interethnic relationships. "Uneasy Matches: Contacts between an Indian Immigrant Woman and White Americans in Bharati Mukherjee's Wife" tries to move away from culturalist or "ethnicist" tenets and focuses instead on the interconnected factors of "class-, gender- and historically-specific social locations" that shape Dimple Dasgupta, the immigrant protagonist of Mukherjee's novel. It is in her negotiations with "white" Americans, that Dimple becomes aware of the new gendered and class hierarchies in the US society. The very cause of the protagonist's eventual emotional breakdown, according to Valjento, lies in her failure to either preserve the old identity-markers or adopt the new Western paradigms.

The last contributions to this section expand the corpus in order to include Canadian texts, but they both fail to provide an in-depth analysis of the chosen corpus. Joel Kuortti's essay focuses on two books about "diasporic" Punjabi Sikhs, one partially set in Canada and another one in the US: Shauna Singh Baldwin's English Lessons and Other Stories and Robbie Clipper Sethi's The Bride Wore Red, respectively. Kuortti sets out to tackle three issues: the role of women in South Asian diasporic writings, the way these texts problematize the construct of "nation", and, last but not least, how the sites of (colonial) power - Canada in Baldwin's collection and the US in Sethi's novel - are shaped by these diasporic subjects to the same extent that the immigrants themselves have to change, adapt, and adjust to the new environment. Mary Economou Bailey's deals exclusively with Canadian literature and addresses the issue of double emplacement. She briefly analyzes the major works of four "multicultural" writers where fiction and history, the personal and political are intertwined. Economou pays special attention to the way these writers delineate characters "caught between two words, the "here" and the "there"," characters "whose pasts merge with the present". While Kuortti's essay provides useful information about the status of South Asians in North America and briefly outlines the most significant scenes in Baldwin's collection and Sethi's novel, it fails to delve deeper into the issues it originally intended to cover. Similarly, Economou's essay proves highly readable, but attempts to analyze far too many texts and thereby does not progress beyond a cursory description of each.

Part II of this volume offers "African American Perspectives" on the issues of race and ethnicity. The opening chapter, by Fredrik Sunnemark, broadens the scope of the book beyond literary criticism in order to incorporate an aspect of cultural studies, specifically Martin Luther King's rhetoric. Although the essay offers no formal conclusion, the aim of the author is clearly stated at the beginning: Sunnemark intends to reveal the ways in which "King's rhetoric works inside a hegemonic understanding of race", while "at the same time … go[ing] beyond and challeng[ing] this understanding". Sunnemark convincingly shows the contradictions inherent in King's discourse. He argues that King initially worked within the "ethnicity paradigm" (where race is subsumed within ethnicity, it is just "one of several ethnic denominators"), a paradigm which aimed at eventual assimilation. However, King also upheld some of the theoretical tenets of the very system he was arguing against. The leader implicitly assumed the "biological paradigm" underlying the racist segregation in the South, in that he emphasized the difference inherent in the position of black people in America and thus "challenge[d] the ethnicity paradigm from within".

Minna Niemi's "Challenging Psychoanalysis: A Black Woman's Experience of Race, Class and Gender in Alice Walker's Meridian" goes back to the field of literary studies. Niemi specifically explores "the ways in which Walker has represented her protagonist's physical disorders and psychic fragmentation". Her psychoanalytic approach to Walker's novel intends to be more inclusive than traditional psychoanalysis, since it includes the neglected ingredients in the psychoanalytic "recipe", namely, the interactions of race, class and gender. Thus, for Niemi Meridian highlights the constructedness of whiteness, a reflection "that often still remains invisible in psychoanalytical theories." The following essay, by Hanna Reinikainen, perfectly dovetails with Niemi's, in that both deal with the physical and psychological disorders suffered by black female characters, whereas this time we are presented with a more "body-centered" perspective. In "Embodiment of Trauma: Corporeality in Toni Morrison's Beloved" Reinikainen focuses on the centrality of the body in the construction of blackness and investigates the black maternal body in Morrison's novel. In addition, the author interestingly applies the concept of the mirror stage (originally Lacan's, not Kristeva's, as implied in the essay) to the relationship between Sethe and Beloved, and argues for Sethe's need to view her body as a healing repository of memory, rather than as a maternal anchor.

Anne Urbanowski's "Swimming against the Tide" does indeed offer quite a fresh approach to contemporary African Americans, by focusing on the social diversity and dissension within this group. Class, modulated by income, education and skin-color, seems to open ever-increasing gaps within the black community. However, according to the author, this difference fails to be foregrounded in cultural and social studies of African Americans, as well as in popular perceptions, which leads to a certain bitterness, especially visible among middle-class and affluent members of the community: "What is most resented is the fact that the diversity of experiences, opinions, and values within the black community is constantly being denied because of the media obsession with the underclass."

Also engaging in the discursive field of social and cultural studies, Sara Kärkkäinen Terian's "Alienation and Home Design: Images of Desired Environments in an African American Community" tries to ascertain whether one's "race" determines one's choice of living environment. Kärkkäinen creatively combines the Marxist concepts of alienation and "false consciousness", with Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" and what Thomas and Thomas term the "definition of the situation", which involves considering real anything we perceive as such. With these theoretical tools in mind and with the methodological choice of selective interviews and participant observation, the author examines the attitudes of the African American inhabitants in a given city. Kärkkäinen's findings confirm that it is "an inauthentic definition of the environmental situation", prompted by economic deprivation, even if perceived as an ineffaceable given by most dwellers, that ultimately keeps them "from reaching or even aspiring to the fulfillment [sic] of their higher needs", in this case aesthetic preferences in their living environment. Although the final choice of environment could possibly be influenced by "African American culture" - a controversial notion itself -, "class", not "race", seems to be the most decisive factor.

The article that closes this section, written by Marja-Leena Hakkarainen, surprisingly goes beyond the basic North American perimeter that circumscribes the contributions to the volume. However, although essay focuses on "Afro-German" literature, the author finds (African) American echoes in the work of the best-known "afro-deutscher" writer, May Ayim. For Hakkarainen Ayim's poems and other black German texts (mostly autobiographical) "negotiate hyphenated identities" and thus challenge binary racial dichotomies, while at the same time "remap[ping] the colonial heritage" and facilitating "transnational alliances".

The following cluster of articles, collected under the heading "Emerging Ethnicities", comprises Arab Americans, Hispanics and Jewish Americans. Salah Oueslati's socio-historical study reads the plight of Arab Americans as that of the "invisible minority". According to the author, such invisibility is partially accounted for if we pay attention to the ambiguous - even contradictory - "racial status" of Arabs throughout US history. Moreover, as Oueslati rightly points out, Arab Americans were "often racialized according to religion (Islam) rather than biology", although, paradoxically, there are still more Christians than Muslims within the Arab American community. Other differences (national origin, social extraction, etc.) have likewise been erased in media portrayals of Arab Americans. Last, but not least, the author emphasizes that Arab Americans' political stance vis-à-vis US interests in the Middle East has further compromised their position in recent times. However, after the attacks of September 11, 2001 (if not before), one is led to believe that Arab Americans no longer constitute the "invisible minority" that Oueslati contends they still are.

Marc Priewe's ""Make a Run for the Border": Chicano Performance Art and the Search for a Space of/for Difference" and Sophia Emmanouilidou's "Border-Crossings and the Subject in Abeyance in Irene Beltran Hernandez's Across the Great River" both deal with Chicano literature in the US. Priewe chooses to study Chicano performance art because of its long-standing tradition in this community: "performance and theater have played an important role in counteracting cultural demands to acculturate to colonial society". In his insightful review of Guillermo Gómez-Peña's performance art, Priewe describes it as fronterizo and hybrid. He also initiates an interesting discussion as to whether these "border performances" run the risk of being co-opted and neutralized by the (neo)colonial establishment. Priewe concludes that, while Gómez-Peña's performances share the clear oppositional stance of the traditional Mexican-American (and later Chicano) corridos, they also go beyond: his performances "remain connected with the resistance tradition of the corrido by employing the border as a trope for transit and change", while at the same time pointing at the limitations of the border paradigm. Emmanouilidou's essay similarly tackles the issue of borders and border-crossing. This time, however, the author analyzes Beltran Hernandez's Across the Great River, from the standpoint of the "semiotics of culture". More specifically, Emmanouilidou engages in a cogent debate "of cultural identity vis-à-vis territoriality" and next applies these concepts to her analysis of the novel, with special attention to the protagonist, a little Mexican girl who has crossed the border. The child is read here as a privileged "border trope of a mutating identity", who is not only shaped by the new (US) environment, but also becomes instrumental in shaping that new location.

The last two articles in this section are Kaisa Ilmonen's "Creolizing the Queer: Close Encounters of Race and Sexuality in the Novels of Michele Cliff" and Cheryl Alexander Malcolm's "The Show's Not Over until the Schlemiel Sings: When Jewish Comedy Meets Puccini". Ilmonen's essay explores how race, gender and sexual orientation remain mutually interlocked, as shown in the work of Caribbean writer Michele Cliff. Ilmonen contends that, in "rewriting the history of resistance and the colonized traditions of the Caribbean", Cliff concomitantly shows "how sexualities and genders may also be rewritten". Thus, suppressed homosexuality - "the greatest taboo" in the Caribbean context - can finally be brought to the surface. In the last contribution to Part III we move (but only partially) from queer theory to interethnic comparative studies. In "The Show's Not Over until the Schlemiel Sings", Cheryl Alexander Malcolm briefly discusses the presence of "Jewish American humor" in David Henry Hwang's M Butterfly. Malcolm convincingly argues that the Asian American playwright consciously "cross-pollinates" with the Jewish tradition of the Schlemiel figure. In this light, Gallimard becomes the Schlemiel in the play, both as the butt of emasculating jokes and as the epitome of foolishness, "the patron saint of the socially inept".

The first essays in Part IV ("Conflicts of Whiteness") look back to the early stages in US history and linger on the negotiations of gender and race during colonial times. Felicia Smith-Kleiner's "Gendered Transactions in the Conquest and Settlement of America" chooses to contrast the attitudes of the first British (Puritan) settlers and the Spanish (Catholic) conquistadores as regards Native women: elimination and appropriation, respectively. Whereas the Anglo settlers were mostly families who abhorred any physical contact with the Natives, the Spanish contingent was made up mostly by men with no "qualms" about "mixing" with "Indias", which resulted in a higher percentage of "mestizaje". However, after an interesting examination of the legal changes regarding "sex crimes" (fornication and adultery) in both Massachussets and New Spain, Smith-Kleiner manages to prove that, by the late 18th century, both colonies had ruled (directly or indirectly) against "miscegenation" and had paved the way for the mystification of the white woman's "racial/sexual purity". In his short - and at times slipshod - article, Christopher Cairney addresses this same concern as conveyed in American "captivity narratives". Cairney takes up Mary Douglas's anthropological theory in Purity and Danger and argues that captivity narratives ultimately - exemplified here by Mary Rowlandson's - exhibit the settlers' "Need for Strangeness": while these texts apparently intend to "present ethnic stereotypes of the natives", they end up "reinforcing certain stereotypes of the Europeans themselves," in this case the pressing need for the "impure" other.

In "Challenging Authority through Transnational Forms of Rebellion: Structural Mutinies in Melville", Stephen F. Wolfe chooses to explore the works of a classic. Although the initial focus lies in Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor, reference is also made to the other "mutiny narratives" in his literary career: White Jacket, Bartleby the Scrivener and Benito Cereno. Wolfe's article abounds in interesting historical details about mutinies in the 18th and 19th centuries, but, more importantly, it offers a reading of Melville's mutinies as both reflections and interrogations of the social, political and economic changes of the period. Narrative control becomes, for Wolfe, key in the interpretation of these mutiny scenes, in that both hesitations and elisions provide powerful commentaries on the new social order.

The construction - and deconstruction - of whiteness becomes more central in the following essays. Thus, Lotta Kähkönen's "Noble White Ethnicity: Joyce Carol Oates's Expensive People as a Parody of the American Family Romance" explores the ways in "whiteness intersects with class and gender" in Oates's novel, as well as the repercussions of a given choice of "white ethnicity". The article focuses on the characterization of Natashya Romanov Everett, the "mother" in Expensive People. Kähkönen describes how, through its depiction of Natashya, the novel provides both a "parody of the Freudian family romance" - complete with a reversal of the Oedipus complex - and a commentary on the history of (white) immigration in the US, specifically through the cultural construct that the author terms the "Fantasy of Noble Origins".

In the following article Sara Eeva offers a perceptive analysis of Creole female characters in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Voyage in the Dark as "Others within whiteness". The author maintains that Creole women in these novels do not entirely "belong" in the restrictive construct of whiteness. Their racial status remains highly mutable, slippery and ambiguous, which confirms the belief that "racial categories and hierarchies are not natural but need constant reconstruction". Both in the Caribbean context and in the metropolis, white Creole women can "pass" for white on certain occasions, but they are constantly represented as "almost the same, but not white" (Bhabha's echo in Eeva's text), that is, they "are constructed as abjects" and Others to the "real" white ladies.

In the last essay of the collection, Stefano Luconi also addresses the issue of the construction of whiteness, in this case the "racialization" of Italian Americans as white. Through a review of the historical stages of "whitening" that the members of this community went through, Luconi claims that Italian Americans' campanilismo (localist or regionalist sentiment) initially hindered the emergence of a sense of "Italianness" among the immigrants, but, in the long run, this did not prevent Americans from perceiving them as a "cohesive group". The need to collectively defend themselves from "white" discrimination and the growth of the (US-born) second generation ultimately provided the necessary cohesion for the Italian American community. The suspicions of disloyalty prompted by World War II only contributed to this sense of "separateness" as an ethnic group and further delayed the acceptance of Italian Americans as white. The "spread of racial consciousness" (as white) and the concomitant "anti-black" sentiment would not surface among them until the difficult coexistence of African Americans and Italian Americans (most notably in large, industrial cities such as Detroit) resulted in overt conflict during the 40's riots. Despite the misleading 2000 census data, Lucano predicts that Italian Americans will continue to favor this racial identification as white over the ethnic label connected with their national ancestry.

Begoña Simal González
Universidade da Coruña, Spain

Nephie Christodoulides, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, Motherhood in Sylvia Plath's Work

Nephie Christodoulides, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, Motherhood in Sylvia Plath's Work. Rodopi, Costerus New Series 152); pgs. 264.

Nephie Christodoulides' project foregrounds the complex, and complicating, influences of the mother in Plath's work; the treatment of motherhood is handled both from the perspective of Plath's experience with motherhood as much as it explores the defining role of Aurelia Plath on her daughter's development as a poet. As Christodoulides states in the introduction, motherhood "must be seen as a plurality and intrinsically linked to the notion of daughterhood," (xii) that goes beyond the already well mined biography of Plath's unique career, to the theoretical underpinnings of gendered subject formation.

Julia Kristeva's discussions of the semiotic, her focus on discourses of crisis in "About Chinese Women," Black Sun and "Sabat Mater" in particular, serve as the theoretical backdrop (that include references to Freud, Klein, Torok and others) of Christodoulides' thesis. The fragility of Plath's sense of self in relation to varying archetypes of the mother from "the devouring" figure that surfaces in a poem like "Medusa" to the self-sacrificing or self-effacing personas of "Heavy Women" and "Mary's Song," suggest that the various roles of abjection are, in Christodoulides' words, "a means to subject formation" and offer a way of "transcending the loose boundaries of self and other" (9). The problem, or paradox, lies in how Plath must negotiate her investment in language, or a symbolic textual self to harness the regressions of her semiotic (maternally identified) impulses. In the extensive references to Jacqueline Rose's The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, Christodoulides cites Rose to foreground how Plath continuously wagers the subjective/semiotic imaginary against the normative terms of the symbolic Law of the father. Whether it is in Plath's early juvenilia poems, or her exploration of fairytale paradigms or her fascination with shamanisms, "the call of the mother is there and cannot be eradicated" (61).

As has been often noted in Plath scholarship, Plath's use of strict meter and form and syllabic patterns, gives way in the latter Ariel poems to the uncanny enjambments and rhythmic incantations of her more experimental and haunting poems like "Lady Lazarus," "Gulliver" and "Purdah." What Christodoulides' contributes to this discussion is the reminder that Plath's uses of rhythms and forms becomes a "further manifestation of her wish to preserve the maternal semiotic in the paternal symbolic" (64). But this preservation of the maternal, or the attempt to do so, is fraught with an ultimately vain attempt to establish a foundation of autonomy, and (re)entraps the poet, and poem, as she endeavors to make her way, through language, into the realm of the symbolic. In considering the relinquishment of the maternal the poet, or her personae, experiences a failed subject-identity, and in re-presencing the loss of the mother as pure semiotic identification, the symbolic unravels itself precipitating Kristeva's much quoted notion in "About Chinese Women" that Plath, like Virginia Woolf and the Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva "disillusioned with meanings and words […] took refuge in lights, rhythms and sounds: a refuge that already announces, for those who know how to read her, her silent departure from life" (Moi, The Kristeva Reader157).

Christodoulides cites poems and other writings of Plath as examples of "successful mourning," of the mother's loss or exclusion ("Parliament Hill Fields", for instance), and connects this to an empowered creativity, or the act of writing poems, Plath's the "blood jet is poetry" ("Kindness"). But there is also the issue of what Christodoulides calls "authentication," of legitimizing oneself within terms not necessarily dependent on the semiotic, and/or maternal; here Plath's obsessions with nurture and orality based on a "premature weaning [that] led to her precocious acquisition of language" (95) come into conflict with her need to master the language that will help signify her loss.

Christodoulides' investigation is ambitious in its scope beginning with Plath's early juvenilia through to her marriage to Ted Hughes, her pregnancies and miscarriages, and finally to her own experiences as a young mother. Throughout Christodoulides' focus illuminates how Plath's maternal dependencies and her uses of the semiotic tropes of motherhood complicated the extraordinary ambivalences she felt in her roles as a daughter, poet, and mother.

Adrianne Kalfopoulou
The American College of Greece

Ada Savin, ed., Journey Into Otherness: Essays in North American History, Culture and Literature

Ada Savin, ed., Journey Into Otherness: Essays in North American History, Culture and Literature. Series: European Contributions to American Studies. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2005. ISBN: 90 5383 955 0 (ECAS no 61)

Journey Into Otherness collects some of the papers presented at the international conference entitled "Regarding the 'Other': Inter-ethnic Dynamics in North America," which was held at the University of Versailles in 2003. The essays in the volume focus on the complex dynamics of inter-ethnic and inter-racial contacts in American history, culture and literature. The interdisciplinary nature of the volume allows readers to view the topic of the ever-changing relations between ethnic communities on the North American continent from different, intersecting and complementary, viewpoints. Importantly, rather than dwell on the traditional opposition between mainstream U.S. culture and minorities, the authors in the volume adopt a trans-ethnic, trans-national perspective that sheds light on various forms of interaction-alliances as well as conflicts-between racial and ethnic groups in North America.

The volume is divided into four sections-"Southern 'Others'," "Canadian 'Others'," "The Mexican Borderlands," and "Crossing Boundaries"-and opens with a brief introduction that outlines its conceptual and theoretical framework. In the introduction, Ada Savin explains that the time has come to pay attention to the American inter-ethnic scene and, alluding to the work of William Boelhower, specifies the ethnic kinesis in American society as the common thread among the seventeen essays in the volume. The editor acknowledges that ethnic groups in the U.S. and Canada are becoming increasingly transnational and that racial blurring-whether biological or symbolical-constitutes a widely accepted norm. Savin concludes her introduction to the volume with an open-ended question about whether or not ethnic identity will become a matter of subjective choice in the future.

Section 1, entitled "Southern Others," includes four essays. The first essay by Bernard Vincent constitutes a historical investigation into the institution of slavery among Indians. Vincent employs the Cherokee nation as a case study and traces the evolution of the institution of slavery in this tribe since the period that preceded the arrival of European settlers. Importantly, the critic discusses slave trade among the Cherokees not only as a social practice that involved economics, but also as a culturally significant and politically motivated practice. The second essay by Nathalie Dessen concentrates on American Louisiana and uses the region as an example to illustrate the elaboration of cultural identities in North America through the interaction of the various "Others" that peopled it. Dessen's essay focuses on the main ethnic groups that composed the Louisiana population in the early nineteenth century, and tries to assess the conflicts that opposed them and to detect the influences they exerted on each other. Ultimately, it attempts to analyze the interaction between these various ethnic groups which, the author claims, gave birth to a syncretic culture through a slow process of Creolization. Rodger Payne's essay also makes the Louisiana region its subject, but focuses on the "Italian Other" in south Louisiana. Payne's discussion offers a vivid picture of the cultural context that informed Italian immigrant life in rural south Louisiana when Tony Musco entertained a saint and began a devotion. Payne uses the example of Musco to illustrate the ways in which immigrants of Italian origin used traditional forms of Italian folk Catholicism to respond to the rhetoric of "Otherness" that marked them as an in-between people. As Payne insightfully observes, the agency of an obscure patron (through devotional activity) not only instigated the immigrants' self-definition but also subsequently led to "race mixing," as Americans of Italian ancestry began to claim their place within the larger social fabric. The last essay in this section, Susan Koshy's, is framed within whiteness and ethnic studies and examines the complex and ambivalent racial strategies of the Chinese in Mississippi in the period between 1870 and 1950. Koshy's brief but extremely suggestive essay emphasizes the dialectical relationship between whiteness, blackness and Asianness, thereby critiquing the dependence on the black/white binary. The author describes the emergence of Asian Americans as an intermediary minority group as a complex process of resistance and complicity-a process that involved mimicry, dissimulation, opposition, challenge and evasion.

Section 2, "Canadian 'Others'," opens with Jean-Michel Lacroix's essay which, as its title suggests, questions whether there can be a new Canada/Quanada partnership. Lacroix's essay outlines the characteristics of Canada's multicultural society and examines the challenges cultural diversity poses to national unity. Lacroix resists simplistic interpretations of Canada's ethno-cultural pluralism and contends that it is neither a uniform concept nor a monolithic reality but one that remains to be constructed and that is continuously interpreted and reinterpreted as common values are negotiated. The challenges of multiculturalism also surface in Sandrine Ferré-Rode's essay that examines Frederick Philip Grove as a champion for Canada, whose views on immigration challenged Canadian society's xenophobic sentiments at the time. Ferré-Rode stresses Grove's comparison between Canada and the U.S., but also illustrates, through a close reading of Grove's lectures, the ways in which he presented the U.S. as a foil to Canada. As Ferré-Rode concludes, Grove's vision of French Canada as a federation, although sketchy and idealistic, is, nonetheless, historically and culturally appropriate. The third essay in this section, Greg Robinson's discussion of the historical encounters between Japanese Canadians and French Canadians, picks up on some of the observations Ferré-Rode makes and traces the modern development of Canada, posing several questions on the "essence" of Canadian society. Robinson's essay does not offer a definitive answer to the question of whether the presence of Japanese Canadians in Quebec has fostered a special relationship between them and the French Canadian majority. Instead, the critic concludes that while the two communities remain fairly separate they also gravitate toward each other, thus holding the promise of an entente cordiale that could potentially terminate racial tension. Last, Mathieu Besmier's essay on Canada's capital-Ottawa-relates the issue of the "Other"-at the core of Ottawa's history-with the issue of "Otherness" in Canada at large and with the construction of Canadian identity. Besmier is highly critical of the physical (geographic), linguistic and religious separation of the English- and French-speaking populations of Ottawa and views Ottawa as emblematic of the Canadian confederation's quest for identity. Besmier's final remarks problematize the view of Ottawa and, by extension, Canada as multi-ethnic, multicultural, and open to the world.

Part 3, "The Mexican Borderlands," begins with an essay by Anne-Marie Brenot on the genre of casta painting and the way in which it represented various types of métissage in the New World (New Spain). In addition to Brenot's detailed discussion of three casta paintings by Miguel Cabrera (De Espanol y d'India, Mestiza; De Chino cambujo y d'India, Loba; and De Negro y d'India, China cambuja), the essay's important contribution is the argument it makes about the social, political, and cultural role these paintings played in the New World colonial societies. The author contends that casta painting was not merely about depicting social reality. In Brenot's words, casta paintings reflected the de facto existence of a multi-racial society that was aware of its distinctiveness with respect to the societies of the Old World. The second essay in this section by Lisbeth Haas views the California borderlands from the perspective of indigenous ethnic and interethnic groups whose interactions enabled things Spanish, like the borderlands missions, to be infused with a strong indigenous content. Haas' essay offers a rather convincing explanation for the way in which Catholicism and the missions became known through the multiple translations of words and concepts and through the interpretations attempted by native scholars, authorities, and common people. Haas particularly focuses on the Chumash revolt (1824) which, she argues, illustrates the crucial role ethnic and interethnic relations played in sustaining an extraordinary act of resistance to conquest. The third contributor in this section, Mel Fearon, turns his attention to the Irish experience in Texas-in particular, their encounters with Mexicans. The author specifically focuses on the pre-famine Irish who settled in Mexico in the colonies of San Patricio and Refugio in the Province of Texas in the late 1820s and, by paying close attention to both state policies and local community responses, he re-tells the story of how Mexico's Far North became the American Southwest. Even though the essay is well grounded on (and often highly critical of) recent historical scholarship on the matter of cross-cultural and cross-class alliances, the concluding remarks the author makes in referring to the Irish immigrant experience in the U.S. leave unanswered important questions as to the different national projects Irish immigrants embraced. Last, the essay by Ramón A. Gutiérrez provides a historical genealogy for the theory of internal colonialism, traces the theory's origins in Latin American theories of dependency and underdevelopment, and examines its extension, diffusion, and transformation among Chicanos and Blacks. Gutiérrez explains the reasons because of which racial minorities in the U.S. found the theory of internal colonialism compelling, and traces the theory's relevance to economics, sociology, and political economy, as well as its significance for African American and Chicano studies.

The last section, "Crossing Boundaries," is the longest one in the volume and, as its title suggests, it transgresses the spatial and corresponding cultural boundaries the thematic divisions among the other sections in the volume purposefully maintain. The first essay by Fabienne Quennet focuses on the literary representation of adopted captive figures in Robson's Ride with the Wind (1982) and Blake's Dances with Wolves (1988). Brief though it may be, the essay, nevertheless, begins with a long theoretical introduction to the topic of transculturation in the Western frontier; then, it proceeds to specific commentary on the two movies. Quennet observes that the process of adopting captives constitutes an act of identity change and boundary crossing, and explains that the only means of surviving Indian captivity was transculturation-a practice punished by white settlers. The critic subsequently turns her attention to the topic of white-native intermarriage and discusses it as a personal process determined by feelings rather than as a shocking phenomenon. Ultimately, Quennet concludes that the adopted captivity motif mirrors the ambiguity inherent in white-native relationships and presents an undesirable otherness that white dominant culture both needs and needs to eradicate. The second essay in this section examines another case of border crossing by discussing Gayl Jones' Mosquito, a novel centered on African-American and Chicano interaction. The author, Heiner Bus, mainly focuses on the main character's (Mosquito) involvement in the "new Underground Railroad" and illustrates the ways in which Jones exploits some of the highly mythologized features of the historical Underground Railroad. Overall, Bus' essay is an insightful close reading of Jones' novel that interprets individual cases of ethnic interaction (between Mosquito and Delgadina) as a productive movement within and beyond the stereotypes of individual and group identities. Matthew Briones' essay on Charles Kikuchi also contributes to the discussion of ethnic interaction by examining the representation of African Americans in the diaries of Kikuchi, a second-generation (Nisei) son of Japanese immigrants. Briones closely reads Kikuchi's diaries that record his World War II experiences to illustrate the common points of intersection and the discrete boundaries of exclusion in the experiences of Blacks and Japanese in America. For Kikuchi, as Briones explains, the "American Dilemma" could be the "Negro question" as much as the "Japanese question"-a dilemma that could not be automatically solved by assimilating non-Whites. Similarly to Briones, Jelena Sesnic delineates some of the possible implications of the cultural exchange between "Asian America" and "African America," but her essay aims at offering a synoptic overview of some junctures in the Asian American literary canon. Sesnic explores the workings of the ethnic masculine self-creation-whether through confrontational or cooperative modes of engagement with African American cultural elements. The critic's close reading of Bulosan's America Is in the Heart (1943), Okada's No-No Boy (1957), and Chin's play The Chickencoop Chinaman suggests that male Asian American characters attempt to construe an alternative masculinity through a significant blend of strategies prompted by social coercion and by voluntary choices and exchanges with African American characters. Finally, Ada Savin concludes the volume's exploration of inter-racial identities and contacts by discussing James McBride's The Color of Water, focusing in particular on the dialectics of Black-Jewish inter-personal relationships. As the critic reveals, The Color of Water debunks some widely circulated myths about Black and Jewish group identity, as well as collective and individual memory. In Savin's view, the uniqueness of the specific autobiographical narrative is that it suggests the possibility of bridging racial identities, thus transcending deeply embedded racial divides.

Overall, Journey Into Otherness is an important contribution to the exploration of inter-ethnicity. Responding to the dialogue initiated by such works as Boelhower's Through a Glass Darkly (1987), Budick's Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation (1999), Biale's Insider/Outsider (1998), and Sollors' Neither Black nor White yet Both (1997), the seventeen essays in the volume offer keen insights into a relatively untapped and challenging domain. Ultimately, by considering the dialectics between ethnic and mainstream America from the perspective of inter-ethnic and inter-racial contacts, Journey Into Otherness points to new directions in the study of the North American ethno-racial scene.

Eleftheria Arapoglou.
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

Eric J. Sundquist, Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America

Eric J. Sundquist, Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America. Cambridge, Massachusetts : The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005.
662 pp. ISBN 0-674-01942-3

Eric J. Sundquist's Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America is a fascinating exploration of the cultural history of the relationship between African Americans and American Jews in the second half of the twentieth century. This exploration is both extensive and intensive: it not only provides a thorough description of the social, economic and cultural context in which the relationships between blacks and Jews were formed, developed and finally severed, including the most important and relevant events in Jewish and African American history after WWII; it also presents the reader with detailed analyses of specific and representative novels, in particular Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, William Melvin Kelley's A Different Drummer, Paule Marshall's The Chosen Place, the Timeless People, and Bernard Malamud's The Tenants.

Strangers in the Land focuses primarily on African Americans' perceptions of Jews and Jewish history, describing the profound and sometimes unexpected effects of the Holocaust on the relationship between blacks and Jews. But the central premise of this study is that the evolution of these perceptions and of the relationship between blacks and Jews sheds an illuminating light on American culture and cultural politics. All Americans need to understand the complex relationship between these "strangers in the land" not only because of the essential contribution of blacks and Jews to the definition of American intellectual and cultural life, but also because of what the conflicts between blacks and Jews reveal about the promises and failures of American society.

Eric J. Sundquist demonstrates that two main paradigms define African Americans' perceptions of Jews and Jewish history: the biblical Exodus and the Holocaust. In the symbol of the biblical Exodus, African Americans have found the vital expression of their longing for freedom in America. But the example of the Holocaust turns out to be more problematic. Eric J. Sundquist explains that, on the one hand, the lens of the Holocaust can be seen as a means of knowing, of remembering the experience and trauma of the Middle Passage and slavery, as in Derek Walcott's poems. On the other hand, the comparison between slavery and the Holocaust sometimes leads to a futile and absurd competition for the recognition of slavery and black suffering as the worst, the most horrendous "holocaust". As the Holocaust became a metaphor and a means of establishing one's identity through vicarious suffering in American culture, the problems of comparability and incommensurability raised by the comparison with the genocide of the Jews were compounded by the risk of the trivialization of both the traumatic experience of slavery and the Holocaust. Although these comparisons were fuelled in part by jealousy and resentment, they represent an attempt to find a compelling and meaningful form of language (image, metaphor or symbol) in the American cultural context in order to obtain the recognition and memorialization of black suffering. However such comparisons fail and backfire when they are not made and developed with nuance and care. Because of these failures and distortions, the Jewish models often aggravated the tensions and conflicts between blacks and Jews, instead of inciting blacks to find affinities with Jews. Thus, Strangers in the Land explores the problematic role of the Jewish models in the search for African American identity and memory, in particular when emulation generates frustration, envy, and resentment.

Eric J. Sundquist also examines the literary expression of the relationships between black and Jews in his perceptive analysis and contextualization of a certain number of representative novels. His illuminating interpretation of Bernard Malamud's The Tenants demonstrates that this novel cannot be understood without a thorough understanding of the historical, political, social and cultural context in which the text was written and published. He then identifies and explains the literary context: the literary tradition and genre of the novel, the numerous allusions to a certain number of literary works and to the literary debates or quarrels between blacks and Jews in the sixties, including the relations between The Tenants and Bernard Malamud's earlier stories.

Although Jews and blacks went their separate ways in the eighties and nineties, Strangers in the Land suggests that the memory of their shared history (of the black-Jewish civil rights alliance), of their "ambiguous brotherhood," in Eric J. Sundquist's phrase, still defines American society and culture. Philip Roth's The Human Stain illustrates this relation and ironically suggests the persistent similarities between the experiences of blacks and Jews: according to Sundquist, the death of Coleman Silk reveals the precarious "whiteness" of the Jew who is never white enough to escape anti-Semitic violence; conversely, African Americans can still be seen as "America's Jews", the most disadvantaged outsiders.

These similarities cannot obscure the undeniable differences between the two groups (in terms of social and economic success) or their still intense disagreements. However, the reader may feel that the image of the parallel lines, which Sundquist evokes in his concluding remarks to crystallize these similarities presently incompatible with convergence or communion, materializes a peculiar form of togetherness, which could serve as the basis for new forms of collaboration and alliance.

Eric J. Sundquist does not reach such an optimistic conclusion: such conjectures, when the sense of irretrievable loss is still palpable, would be inappropriate in a work clearly devoted to the rigorous and thorough study of the cultural and literary facts which illuminate the relationship between blacks and Jews. Rather than indulging in unjustified (and politically correct) optimism, Strangers in the Land presents the readers with the precision, erudition, intelligence and a sense of balance which fulfil all the pleasures of reading and signal an indispensable work of literary criticism and cultural history.

Michaël Taugis
Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of Poitiers

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