Multicultural literature exposes readers to histories which the current canon of American literature has obscured, giving voice to minority heritages and legacies characterized by oppression. In tribal tradition, storytelling both relays information and establishes native histories, which may be considered legends by non-natives, as fact. Before paper, oral stories’ power to record history and sustain culture made them essential to tribal societies’ preservation. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Lullaby and untitled poem “Long time ago” convey the stylistic chants of oral tradition, preserving the distinct characteristics of native storytelling.
Components of native literature such as the capacity of words to renew and reestablish history emphasizes the cyclical, rather than linear, nature of time. In Silko’s “Storyteller,” the protagonist only speaks aloud to simultaneously alter her reality and create her story, using laughter in place of words to assert control without changing the story.
Writers create realities expressing their cultural truth and representing their aspirations for their communities. These works function reciprocally, expressing the writer’s truth while allowing the audience to color their readings. Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B” inquires whether the reception of a black writer’s work will be affected by race, and Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” answers this question by purposefully leaving the page uncolored, inviting readers to incorporate their biases. These works challenge the idea that America has entered a post racial era and assert that racial disparity exists as it did during the Harlem Renaissance and the 1950s by exploring the readers’ need to identify race to understand truth.
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25 March 2016
- Date submitted
18 July 2022
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