Puerto-Rican born Judith Ortiz Cofer’s collection of short stories and poems written in an autobiographical narrative entitled The Latin Deli and Nigerian immigrant Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah both discuss in detail the immense role language plays in the shaping of one’s identity and the consequences of linguistic “contact zones”. When either character does not conform to the linguistic normality’s present in both their native cultures and their adopted cultures, the conflicting cultures collide and create “contact zones” in which each’s presented language battles and clambers to express itself and let their cultural identities be heard and accepted by the more dominant culture. Judith Ortiz Cofer and Adiche’s Ifemelu become prime examples of those who struggle to reconcile the linguistic divide between who they are and who they are expected to be. Judith Ortiz Cofer and Ifemelu become displaced from their original culture as Ortiz Cofer moves from Puerto Rico to the United States as a young girl and Ifemelu relocates from Nigeria to America as a young college student. The experiences of a young college student and a woman recounting her childhood becomes closely intertwined as they both feel the innate pressure to conform to the expectations of American English speaking communities whilst trying to hold onto the language and culture that shaped how they view their world. This struggle throws the characters into a hybridized space in which they feel they cannot express their original identities nor be accepted by their new cultural identities, instead having to form new identities and carve out linguistic roles for themselves.
Key words: Literature, linguistics, language, culture, communities, identity
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23 March 2018
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19 July 2022