Walking Distance: Navigation, Epiphany, and Memory in American Small-Town Fiction

The navigation of the physical small-town space triggers memories, emotions, and other physiological responses that help narrate and give shape to localised communities. The act of walking can be epiphanic and cathartic, it can geographise and shape the vast topography of American regions, and, in the texts concerned with small-town America, it becomes a vital signifier not simply of life, but of living. Continue reading

‘Women of Genius’: The ‘Revolt from the Village’ in Mary Austin and Willa Cather’s Fiction

The American small-town has long been a telling index of American cultural identity and a genesis site for prevailing hegemonic ideologies, but many writers of the interwar period began a narrative iconoclasm of the small-town idyll. The Midwestern authors Edgar Lee Masters, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis, to name but three, destabilised the myth of the utopian small-town and instead rendered such spaces as provincial, lonesome, and conservative enclaves from which one must flee. This article contends that, between Mary Austin’s A Woman of Genius (1912) and Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark (1915), a distinctly female ‘revolt’ lineage becomes apparent. Continue reading

‘Unbelievable Originality’: Lining Tracks and Performativity in Zora Neale Hurston’s Folk Concerts

It is nearly a century since Zora Neale Hurston wrote Barracoon, an ethnography of Cudjo Lewis, the Alabama man believed to be the last living African enslaved in the United States. On May 8 Lewis’ story became widely available to the public for the first time. To mark this historic occasion, and to commemorate the life and works of Zora Neale Hurston – a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance, African-American folklorist and ethnographer, and one of the most significant women writers of the twentieth century – USSO has commissioned a series of articles on any aspect of Hurston’s life, her art, her anthropology. This article is the first in the series. Continue reading

Conference Review: Recovering May Alcott Nieriker’s Life and Work, Université Paris Diderot

This special guest review comes to us from Amelia Platt, a fifteen-year-old student from Litcham Comprehensive High School and a participant in the Brilliant Club, a charity that employs PhD students to tutor pupils from low-participation backgrounds. Amelia would like to thank her mentor, Azelina Flint, a doctoral candidate and AHRC CHASE Award Holder at the School of American Studies, University of East Anglia. Continue reading

Zora Neale Hurston: Life and Works

A series to commemorate the historic publication of 'Barracoon: the Story of the Last Black Cargo' (Harper Collins, 2018)

“Of all the millions transported from Africa to the Americas, only one man is left. The only man on earth who has in his heart the memory of his African home; the horrors of a slave raid; the barracoon; the Lenten tones of slavery; and who has 67 years of freedom in a foreign land behind him.” Continue reading

“Cracking Eggs” in Diana Abu-Jaber’s ‘Life Without a Recipe’ (2016)

I am Fatima: Negotiating Identities in Contemporary American-Muslim Women’s Writing Series

This is the third and last post in the series ‘I am Fatima: Negotiating Identities in Contemporary American-Muslim Women’s Writing’ guest-written by Hasnul Djohar. This short series explores American-Muslim women’s writing in the 21st Century, focusing on the negotiation of identities within the works of a specific author in each… Continue reading

Folktales in Randa Jarrar’s ‘A Map of Home’ (2008)

I am Fatima: Negotiating Identities in Contemporary American-Muslim Women’s Writing Series

Randa Jarrar’s ‘A Map of Home’ (2008) narrates the coming-of-age story of a Muslim woman of Egyptian and Palestinian descent […] [and] can be compared to Kingston’s ‘The Woman Warrior’ (2000) which uses Chinese folktales; and Jarrar also alludes to Palestinian folktales. The protagonist, Nidali, describes this folktale through the way her grandma, Sitto, tells her the story, which is about “two sisters, one poor and one rich” […] “The poor one goes to the rich one’s house and the rich one’s stuffing cabbage leaves” (101). The poor one is creative and willing to help others until she becomes rich because her own fart is happy after she lets it go from her stomach and it presents her with gold, while her sister at the end is dying because her own fart gives her scorpions after forcing it to go out from her comfortable stomach. Continue reading

Women’s Emancipation in Mohja Kahf’s ‘Emails from Scheherazad’ (2003)

I am Fatima: Negotiating Identities in Contemporary American-Muslim Women’s Writing Series

Mohja Kahf the poet, novelist and scholar, was born in 1960 in Damascus, Syria and moved with her family to America’s Midwest in 1971. She is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the writer of two poetry collections […] Kahf’s collection of poetry, ‘Emails from Scheherazad’ (EFS) explores the struggle of Muslim women to reclaim their own identity and reverse American myths and stereotypes of the Muslim world, especially Muslim women. In doing so, Kahf alludes to Muslim Women’s forebears, such as Asiya, Mary, Balqis, Khadija, Fatima, and Scheherazad. Scheherazad, the Queen and the story teller in ‘One Thousand and One Nights’, is a hero for Muslim women as she successfully revered the King’s physical violence into magnificent stories, which made the King wiser in understanding humanity. Continue reading

I am Fatima: Negotiating Identities in Contemporary American-Muslim Women’s Writing

Introducing the Series

By exploring the heroic stories of American-Muslim women, who also represent other marginal groups, we gain a better understanding of how these groups have not only suffered from white mythologies from the periods of European colonialisms and American imperialism, but also have struggled to seek social justice and equality. And with the better understanding of these women’s struggles, this short series aims to contribute to discussions concerning American-Muslim literature, which explores both melancholic and convivial stories of marginal groups in order to reveal what it means to be American citizens of Muslim descent. Continue reading