Filled with humor, passion, and grace, Growing Up Ethnic in America features some of America's brightest voices in pieces that shed light on the many ways individuals from distinctly ethnic backgrounds come to terms with the multicultural terrain that is America. These stories depict a variety of experiences, including poignant but failed attempts at conformity and the alienation often felt by ethnic Americans. But they also tell of the strength gained through the preservation of their communities, and the realization that it is often the difference from the norm that helps them to succeed. In pieces that suggest that what constitutes American identity is far from settled, these writers testify to the profound effect ethnic differences have on personal and communal understandings of America, and illustrate the diversity that is the source of the nation's great discord and infinite promise.
In their third editorial collaboration, the mother-daughter Gillan team (Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry) collects 35 wide-ranging literary voices, this time on the theme of ethnic childhood in America. Including excerpts from modern classics by such acclaimed authors as Toni Morrison, Amy Tan, Sandra Cisneros and E.L. Doctorow, the Gillans shape this compilation of fictional works around four concepts--performing, crossing, negotiating and bridging--focusing on the often contradictory, sometimes humorous process of reconciling personal identity with perceived ideals of "American" culture. Gary Soto writes of a nine-year-old boy's deep wish to have dinner like the Cleaver family on TV, neatly dressed (even wearing shoes!) and eating mashed potatoes, instead of beans and tortillas. Gish Jen recounts a delightfully tentative eighth-grade romance between confident Chinese-American Mona Chang and a Japanese exchange student. Veronica Chambers reveals with swift, sure strokes the magical, protective power in a girl's mastery of double Dutch. And Beena Kamlani paints a stirring portrait of a conservative, heartbroken Indian-American family whose 15-year-old daughter is pregnant. These beautiful stories radiate with the poignant, ingenious ways young people come to terms with their ethnic identities, negotiating their families, school, friends and their futures. The four sections around which the works are structured sometimes seem arbitrary, and the editors themselves recognize that the selected stories defy classification. The volume would be useful in the classroom from grade school to university, for the stories are accessible but rich with meaning. This exemplary collection fulfills the editors' aims: to open dialogue and encourage the telling of difficult, adaptive or affirming life experiences. Author appearances. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.