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New Visions of Community in Contemporary American Fiction

Tan, Kingsolver, Castillo, Morrison

Magali Cornier Michael

Publication Year: 2006

In this engaging, optimistic close reading of five late twentieth-century novels by American women, Magali Cornier Michael illuminates the ways in which their authors engage with ideas of communal activism, common commitment, and social transformation. The fictions she examines imagine coalition building as a means of moving toward new forms of nonhierarchical justice; for ethnic cultures that, as a result of racist attitudes, have not been assimilated, power with each other rather than power over each other is a collective goal.Michael argues that much contemporary American fiction by women offers models of care and nurturing that move away from the private sphere toward the public and political. Specifically, texts by women from such racially marked ethnic groups as African American, Asian American, Native American, and Mexican American draw from the rich systems of thought, histories, and experiences of these hybrid cultures and thus offer feminist and ethical revisions of traditional concepts of community, coalition, subjectivity, and agency.Focusing on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, and Toni Morrison’s Paradise, Michael shows that each writer emphasizes the positive, liberating effects of kinship and community. These hybrid versions of community, which draw from other-than-dominant culturally specific ideas and histories, have something to offer Americans as the United States moves into an increasingly diverse twenty-first century. Michael provides a rich lens through which to view both contemporary fiction and contemporary life.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. v

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p. vii

I want to thank the people and institutions that helped make this book possible. Duquesne University provided me with a sabbatical during the spring 2003 semester, a Wimmer Family Foundation Faculty Development Grant during the summer of 2003, and a Presidential Scholarship Award during the summer of 2005, all of which gave me some time away ...

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Introduction: Rethinking Community for the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 1-38

The sheer volume of human beings migrating, individually or in groups, voluntarily or not, across national borders around the globe throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and into the twenty-first century has resulted in an incredible mixing of diverse peoples and cultures, which in turn has created both serious ...

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Choosing Hope and Remaking Kinship: Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

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pp. 39-72

Focusing on Amy Tan’s incredibly popular The Joy Luck Club (1989), this chapter turns to a specific analysis of contemporary American fiction by women who draw from particular ethnic American traditions to reimagine dynamic forms of community and coalition building within the landscape of ...

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Negotiating Collectivities: Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven

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pp. 73-112

This chapter further explores alternative models of kinship as an avenue for reimagining community and the possibility of agency begun in the discussion of Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. Like Tan’s novel, Barbara Kingsolver’s two-novel set, The Bean Trees (1988) and Pigs in Heaven (1993 ...

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Collective Liberation and Activism via Spirituality: Ana Castillo’s So Far from God

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pp. 113-150

While this chapter continues the exploration of creative ways of rethinking kinship as a means of creating alternative forms of communities and communal agency, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God (1993) subverts more extensively than do the novels discussed so far the traditional dichotomy between the private...

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The Call to Love, to Assert Power with Others: Toni Morrison’s Paradise

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pp. 151-184

Toni Morrison’s Paradise (1997) moves further past notions of kinship than any other novel examined in this book as it explores more specifically the politics of community and coalition building. The novel demonstrates that, within the context of the United ...

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Conclusion: Looking to the Future

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pp. 185-194

As the preceding chapters have made clear, the notion and ideals of community continue to matter greatly within the context of late twentieth-century America. That community still matters is evidenced by the various social and activist movements since..


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pp. 195-220


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pp. 221-236


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pp. 237-246

E-ISBN-13: 9781587297397
E-ISBN-10: 1587297396
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587295119
Print-ISBN-10: 1587295113

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 646887508
MUSE Marc Record: Download for New Visions of Community in Contemporary American Fiction

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Subject Headings

  • Ethnicity in literature.
  • American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • American fiction -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • American fiction -- Minority authors -- History and criticism.
  • Communities in literature.
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