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restricted access Contested ‘‘Places’’ and Conflicted Nexuses in Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills and Mairuth Sarsfield’s No Crystal Stair
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Contested ‘‘Places’’ and Conflicted Nexuses in Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills and Mairuth Sarsfield’s No Crystal Stair Kim Green Abstract: Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills and Mairuth Sarsfield’s No Crystal Stair affirm African Americans’ and African Canadians’ fortitude at nexuses of resistance and oppression in the United States and Canada through portrayals of characters who refuse to allow their marginalized racial, class, and gender belongings to limit them, and who defiantly enact their ascendant aspirations. Keywords: African American literature, African Canadian literature, identity, belonging, mobility, resistance, African diaspora Résumé : Linden Hills, de Gloria Naylor, et No Crystal Stair, de Mairuth Sarsfield, illustrent la force d’âme des Africains-Américains et des AfricainsCanadiens devant les foyers de résistance et d’oppression qui subsistent aux États-Unis et au Canada ; cette force s’affirme dans les portraits de personnages qui refusent de se laisser confiner dans la marge par leur appartenance à une race, une classe ou un genre, et qui concrétisent, dans une attitude de défi, leurs aspirations les plus fortes. Mots clés : littérature africaine-américaine, littérature africaine-canadienne, identité, appartenance, mobilité, résistance, diaspora africaine Both African American and African Canadian literatures have historically been instrumental in narrating blacks’ resistant movement. Through a variety of genres, including slave narratives and other autobiographical texts, newspaper articles, speeches, poetry, and fiction, literatures have depicted the movement that black people in both nations have undertaken to counteract the systematic inhibitions intended to prevent them from thriving intellectually, 6 Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines ahead of print article doi: 10.3138/cras.2017.006 This ahead of print version may differ slightly from the final published version. economically, and socially.1 Contemporary African American and African Canadian literatures continue to depict the fortitude blacks have exhibited at nexuses in which their ascendant wills have collided with oppressive systems sustained by people in power. Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills (1985) and Mairuth Sarsfield’s No Crystal Stair (1997) are important contemporary examples within African American and African Canadian literatures, respectively, because they nuance blacks’ experiences at complex junctions between ascent and descent, particularly at intersections between their efforts to advance themselves and antagonistic efforts to impede those ambitions. Both Naylor’s and Sarsfield’s texts show significant ways that blacks people’s determination to reap benefits of national belonging in the United States and Canada (e.g., economic ascension) catalyzes resistant movement against and past the impediments created by oppressive structures. The United States and Canada are important sites for situating a comparative study of the resistant movement of black people, because both nations have constructed national ideals around tenets of opportunity and possibilities of upward mobility; those ideals historically have inspired blacks’ movement back and forth between the United States and Canada and from across the African diaspora to each nation to achieve freedom and equity. Blacks have realized the discrepancies between national ideals and their lived experiences in both nations, and so they have used physical, intellectual, and economic movements to reject and counteract marginalization. Linden Hills and No Crystal Stair keenly attend to the aforementioned disillusionment with American and Canadian national ideals and insightfully portray the resistant movement blacks have historically enacted to make promises of opportunity in the United States and Canada align with their lived experiences. Comparative discussion of blacks’ resistant movement within the United States and Canada—and within the focal novels—has not only national import but also international significance, particularly within the context of the African diaspora. While the US is recognized as an important site within the African diaspora, Canada has not been positioned in a similar way. Therefore, parallel examination of black people’s experiences in the US and Canada allows for increased visibility of Canada as an important site of blacks’ resistance and an important place within the black diaspora, a heightened recognition for which prominent scholars of African Canadian history, literature, and culture, such as George Elliott Clarke and 2 Canadian Review of American Studies aa (2017) Winfried Siemerling, implicitly and explicitly call...