Finding oneself far from home: identity construction in contemporary US migrant women’s fiction

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Alghamdi, Khlwd
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University College Cork
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This thesis discusses US immigrant women’s narratives in terms of identity construction, adaptation to the host environment, and the resulting effects on the characters’ sense of home and belonging. The thesis also compares women’s immigrant narratives with expatriate fictions focusing on the experience of American women in the East. The project explores six specific novels: Diana Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz (1993), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013), Shaila Abdullah’s Saffron Dreams (2009), Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land (1996), Keija Parssinen’s The Ruins of Us (2012), and Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Expatriates (2016). These texts will be examined primarily through the lens of Homi Bhabha’s theories of postcolonial ‘third space’ and hybridity, and Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural adaptation theory. The thesis also engages with the extant scholarship on this topic. The goal of this thesis is to bridge a gap in the fields of literary and cross-cultural studies, immigrant women studies, and comparative studies, generating scholarship on neglected topics such as women’s expatriate narratives in the East. This project connects the women writers discussed through the theories applied in interpreting their narratives and through identifying them according to two, different, geographical movements—immigration into America and emigration to the East. The first cluster of narratives explored in this thesis are those of migrant women who struggle with double exclusion: a woman of colour who migrates to the US experiences twice the difficulties that a man of colour or an expatriated White women to the East would face. However, American women who migrate to the East also struggle with loss of autonomy due to cultural difference and differences in gender roles in the host culture. As American literature is now routinely defined as a phenomenon that exceeds national borders, looking at the works of the immigrant women writers discussed in this thesis through the lens of the transnational turn in American studies changes and challenges our definition of what American literature is.
Racism , Immigrant women , Identity Issues , Hybridity , Women's identity , US migrant women's fiction , Sense of home , American expatriate women's narratives , Identity construction , 'Third space' , Cross-cultural adaptation , Expatriate fictions of American women in the East
Alghamdi, K. 2020. Finding oneself far from home: identity construction in contemporary US migrant women’s fiction. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.