The New Literature of Immigration by Rob Nixon
Millions of new immigrants have moved to the United States since 1965. Poets and writers have captured immigrants’ experiences through literary works. The book, “Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration” describes the United States as a country of immigrants. Rob Nixon notes that immigrants face uncertainties in new countries and living as an immigrant is a tough experience while Judith Cofer Ortiz’s poem, “Exile” shows that immigrants find it difficult to forget about their past because it is a part of their lives. This essay explores new literature of immigrants from various authors to demonstrate their experiences.
In her poem, Cofer recalls regrettably how she left her home and migrated to America. She explains the meaningless of her past life and relates it to a cancelled stamp. She remarks that it is not easy to forget the past because it is part of her. She states that recollecting the horrible past is painful, but it is difficult to let go even when one is threatened with death. Immigrants are forced to look back into their past lives. In the poem, Cofer attributes her future with success.
Rob Nixon notes that he left South Africa for America when he was 25 years old. Nixon recalls how his grandparents landed in South Africa early in the nineteenth century from Scotland. Two generations later, he notes that the grandchildren are scattered in four continents, namely Africa, Europe, Australia and North America. Nixon recalls the role politics played in his departure from South Africa to America. Although Nixon’s experiences are painful, the emotions of tracing his roots pushed him forward. According to Nixon (68), there are uncertainties in the destination country for immigrants. The past lives keep on haunting them and at the same time, they do not know what the future holds. The destination country may have many opportunities but can still be worse than the country of origin.
The New Literature of Immigration represents history and culture in which identity, culture clash, loss and assimilation influence the lives of immigrants. Immigrant writers capture their diverse experiences in their works. For instance, Rob Nixon and Judith Ortiz Cofer demonstrate that immigrants face difficulties and challenges during the whole process of immigration and therefore finding it hard to forget the past while living in foreign land.
The New Literature of Immigration reflects the fundamental realities of life for most people and the complicated politics of immigration in America since the nineteenth century. According to Mendoza and Shankar, immigration is rated as the most important theme in Hispanic literature (xiv). The theme provokes the development of a new type of literature called the new literature of immigration that addresses reasons for immigration and other related issues. According to Cofer (112), no one warned her of the dangers of looking back when she migrated to America for exile. Others like Nixon were reluctant to move to America, but the political situation in his mother country (Apartheid) forced him to move.
Immigration literature addresses the primary elements of immigration including the anxiety of loneliness, determination, success, challenges and uncertainty among others. Cofer feels abandoned in foreign land and recalls success of fishermen she left behind (Cofer 112). Nixon had a childhood dream of moving overseas, but the feeling of loneliness and uncertainty made him change his mind. The challenge of self-identity and cultural adaptation make it hard for immigrants to forget their past. The immigration literature highlights the struggle of immigrants as they strive to identify the new self and forget their past. Uncertainty is a major concern for many immigrants and Rob Nixon says that no migrants know how much they will need their past.
According to Kolodny (52), immigration literature addresses the issues of “self and the other.” The past and present lives of immigrants play a major role in the restructuring of their new identity. They hope for a better life in the destination country but also find it hard to forget the past. The fear of new experiences and loneliness makes them always focus on the past. Judith Cofer explains her past life and envies success of the fishermen back in her home country. Rob Nixon had a childhood dream of migrating but later changed his mind after realizing the high-level of uncertainty in the destination country. Nixon remained reluctant to migrate until he was forced by the Apartheid experience (Nixon 69).
Immigration literature shows that immigrants endure tough, challenging experiences as they move to new countries. In most cases, issues of uncertainties, loss of culture, identity, assimilation and anxiety form the major themes. Still, literature of immigrants demonstrates that the issue of immigration has remained complicated in American politics. “Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration” refers to the United States as land of immigrants, but captures difficult experiences that immigrants endure. Nixon shows uncertainties and difficult experiences in lives immigrants while Cofer describes how it is difficult to forget one’s past in new land. Immigrant literature helps us to understand peculiar social changes in American history from immigrants’ points of view.
Cofer, Judith. “Exile.” Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration. Eds. Louis Mendoza and Subramania Shankar. New York: New Press, 2003. 112-113. Print.
Kolodny, Annette. The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1975. Print.
Mendoza, Louis Gerard and Subramanian Shankar, eds. Crossing into America: the new literature of immigration. New York: New Press, 2003. Print.
Nixon, Rob. “Dreambirds: The Strange History of the Ostrich in Fashion, Food, and Fortune.” Crossing into America: the new literature of immigration. Eds. Louis Mendoza and Subramania Shankar. New York: New Press, 2003. 68-71. Print.