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History As A Boomerang Essay

1775 words - 8 pages

Globalization has resulted in blurred lines of cultural identities. More people are moving across borders due to labor and immigration and forming new spaces in their host countries. The heterogeneity created by this features the already existing culture or cultures of the host country, people who fight to maintain and preserve their cultural identity by rejecting the influences of other cultures; and others who readily adopt new hybrid identities. The negotiations for an identity and the struggle for their place in the host country can be understood in the ways Zadie Smith and Junot Díaz examine the ways their characters construct identities under the influences of history, host ...view middle of the document...

There is an amalgamation of experiences, memories, and history that an immigrant has access to, and so history and culture then become a source of connection within the diaspora. In Edwidge Danticat’s essay, “Welcoming Ghosts,” from her collection Create Dangerously The Immigrant Artist at Work, she quotes a moment in an interview between artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and Marc Miller, where Miller is asking Basquiat about his art and whether his cultural heritage translates through his art. Basquiat responds, “I have a cultural memory. I don’t need to look for it, it exists…Our cultural memory follows us everywhere, wherever you live” (132). The idea that cultural memory follows us wherever we may go, expresses how people living in a diaspora experience an intimate contact between two or more cultures and those cultural memories act as shadows.
The novels both explore the notion of temporality and how it should not be thought of in a linear manner. Samad proclaims, “[T]he generations... they speak to each other, Jones. Its not a line, life is not a line-this is not palm reading-it's a circle”(153). Life does not follow an ordered straight progressive pattern, rather what happens in the past forecasts the future. Smith uses the epigraph, “What is past is prologue,” conveying to the reader that what has occurred in the past has served as an introduction to the present and future. The introduction sets the reader up for the narratives that will connect the generations by revealing the significance of repeated behaviors, personal obsessions, and genetic inheritance.
White Teeth features the multicultural story of three families, the Joneses, the Iqbals, and the Chalfens and their relationships. Archie and Clara Jones met while Clara was escaping her religiously obsessive mother when she is nineteen and Archie forty-seven. He is English; Clara Jamaican and they have a daughter, Irie. Archie’s former war friend, Samad Iqbal and his wife, Alsana are Bengali and have identical twin boys, Magid and Millat. Then the Chalfens, Joyce and Marcus, have a Jewish, Catholic, and Atheist background; they have a big family, but Smith only spotlights their son Joshua. Smith uses the method of first presenting the present then launches into the past with “root canals” exploring historical incidents. The way the narrative progresses deviates from a direct presentation, just as heritage and legacy do not take a traditionally linear pattern.
Uncovering history leads to acceptance of one’s identity. The second-generation immigrants need to dig and reveal their roots and hence find themselves. As Smith writes, “for if this story [of history] is to be told, we will have to put them all back inside each other like Russian dolls” (356). This conveys how we all represent a part of our ancestors and the metaphor shows how memory is transferred from parent to child and how it has shaped the characters feeling of inbetweenness or schizophrenia. From the...

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