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Piecing Together The ‘Here’ And ‘There’: Identity Crises In Diasporic Literature

2059 words - 9 pages

Identity is at the core of Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets, Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones, and Rhina Espiallat’s Where Horizons Go. All of these Diasporic literary works deals with the manner in which the characters negotiate their relationships between their current locations and their ancestral homelands. In each work the protagonists struggle to unionize there two parts of his/her identity, to bring together the ‘here’ (where they are now) and ‘there’ (their ancestral homeland).
Salina, the protagonist of Brown Girl, Brown Stones, goes back and forth throughout the novel in a struggle to resolve her identity (her American-ness and her Barbadian roots). From the loving ...view middle of the document...

She views her father as “a dark god . . . a deity”, and enjoys spending time with her happy-go-lucky father (Marshall 50, 52). This is significant to the discussion at hand because her father symbolizes the homeland. One day Deighton (her father) receives news that he has inherited a small plot of land in Barbados, which makes him hopeful that he will one day be able to return to Barbados and build a beautiful home. Selina’s mother, Silla, wants Deighton to sell the plot so that they can buy their house in Brooklyn (to achieve the American Dream), but Deighton refuses to give up the land. They continue to argue about the situation for months. This plot of land, and by extension Deighton, clearly symbolizes a return to the homeland, and the culture and traditions of Barbados. In the way that Selina shares a strong connection to her father, she therefore shares a connection to Barbados.
However, this is complicated as Selina’s parents continue to argue over the land. At one point her mother talks about how she is going find a way to get that money with neighborhood friends (and Salina listening), and after she does so she warns Selina not to inform her father. This puts in Selina in the middle, conflicted between her love for and loyalty to her father, and her growing understanding of her mother. She struggle with what to do. This struggle, given the symbolisms of both her parents (Deighton representing return to Barbados and Silla the American Dream), reflect Selina’s ongoing internal struggle with her identity. She struggles to come to an understanding of who she is in relation to her Barbadian-ness and her American-ness, for “what was there for her to fear when she was all in one piece” (Marshall 266).
By the novel’s close Selina realizes that she is actually more like her mother than her father. Her pursuits are like that of her mother’s own; she wants to be her own woman. At the novel’s end Selina realizes this, telling her mother, “Everybody used to call me Deighton’s Selina but they were wrong, because you see I’m truly your child” (Marshall 301). So again, there is this back and forth going on in Selina’s mind concerning her identity.
What’s more, there is situation with Selina refusing the Barbadian association scholarship because she knows that she does not deserve it, which shows an understanding of her lacking connection to Barbados. Perhaps it was this understanding that led Selina to choose to study Caribbean dance. Her choosing to dance in general is very symbolic of her asserting her individuality (as her mother wanted her to become a doctor) and carving out her own place in the world. Though choosing her own path, in doing so Selina is very much like her independent, strong-minded mother, and at the same time she is choosing to remain connected to the homeland by studying Caribbean dance, but in her own way. At the novel’s close Selina hurls the “two silver bangles she had always worn” behind her, freeing herself of the...

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