Multiculturalism is the recognition and appreciation of various cultures. It is the integration of various cultures to ensure people live harmoniously. Multiculturalism is what enables people of different backgrounds and cultures to live together in a culturally diverse society. Multiculturalism is about reaching out to new comers and natives of an area and finding a way in which they could both participate in the enhancement of the society. (Perkins, 2011)
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People who support multiculturalism argue that it allows people to express who they really are in a society. It is a more tolerant way of adapting to the diversity of various people. (Wilson, 2012)
Multiculturalism rose after the Second World War. This was when there were rapid changes in the Western societies. The fight for human rights persisted and grew as more and more peoples were advocating for equal treatment for everyone of every race and nationality.
It was during the period when the European Colonial System was collapsing as more Asian and Africa countries were fighting for their independence. In America it came with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. In the West the whole aspect of multiculturalism at that time was seen as a way of protecting minorities from racial discrimination. (Modood, 2007)
During the postwar period, multiculturalism was one of the most important developments in American Literature. In the first two and a half century of American history the literature was not multicultural as it did not involve everyone in the society. Even though the society at the time was already diverse with peoples of various origins, the literature was still not as diverse.
First of all, the literature was not homogeneous as it was only written by men. Marginalized groups such as Women, Indians, African Americans, French Canadians in New England, Creoles and Cajuns in Louisiana, and Spaniards were doing very little writing and were represented to the public manly through the writing of others. (Perkins, 2011)
After the Second World War, most of the marginalized communities’ literature started getting their way into mainstream. Jewish American literature was becoming popular in America. This was spear headed by the two Noble price winners, Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis. There was also the third generation of Jewish immigrants who did very good literature. Bernard Malamud, often identified with recent immigrants, was the master of Short stories, his most famous one being The Assistant.
Among the African Americans there were also prolific writers who caught the attention of many people. After Richard Wright there were many other good talented writers that jumped into the scene. Writers such as Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin had established good reputations in this field.
In 1946 the novel The Street which was a portrait of Harlem written by Ann Petry was the first work by an African American woman to gain a lot of critical attention. Many others followed after her and helped in presenting the African American society from their own perspective. This includes Dorothy West who wrote about the wealthy black Bostonians in her work in 1948, The Living Is Easy. Paule Marshall was another writer who wrote about the blacks in Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959) which tells of Barbadians living in Brooklyn.
Multiculturalism literature increased rapidly in the last third of the twentieth century. As this happened, people became more concerned with the American identity and forgot about the differences of race or ethnicity. This was also seen when the federal government allowed people to declare themselves ‘mixed’ during the 2000 census rather than sticking strictly to Caucasian, Native American, Black, Hispanic or Asian. (UTwatch, 2012)
After the Harlem Renaissance and the splendid writing of people like Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin the African Americans were able to inherit readership from these literacy accomplishments.
Braced by the accomplishments of the civil rights movements the writers of this period were assured of large audiences who were sympathetic. The writers were therefore able to capitalize on this and gain critical attention for their works. During this period there were a number of really good poets who were striving harder than ever to transform the best imaginings into social and political reality.
Among the poets that emerged during this period were Amiri Baraka who was a poet and a novelist, Ishmael Reed who was also a poet and a novelist; Gloria Taylor who was best known for The Women of Brewster Place (1982); Alice Walker, who wrote ‘The Color Purple, in 1982 and the author of Brothers and Keepers, John Edgar Wideman in 1982. Other writers include Charles Johnson who wrote about the slave trade in a rather new fashion in his work Middle Passage in 1990.
There was also the Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison who’s 1970 Song of Solomon propelled her to the top, to be recognized among the best of her generation. Among the best of the poets who have come into critical view from the seventies onward are Michael Harper; Rita Dove, a poet laureate of the United States; and Jay Wright, who dismantles stereotypes with his multifaceted allusions and accommodations. (UTwatch, 2012)
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The multiculturalism movement has mostly been promoted by the oldest inhabitants of America. The new literature of multiculturalism mostly comes from the Native Americans and the other minorities which have been underrepresented in the country over the years. Most of these people have grown rapidly in numbers over the years and are pushing more and more for their voices to be heard. They are doing this through literature and hence coming up with this new multiculturalism literature that is taking over America.
The most acclaimed American Indian writer is Louise Erdrich. She has been celebrated for her novels such as Love Medicine from 1984 which talks about the life of Indians in North Dakota. There are other Indian writers who mostly focused on fiction such as Scott Momaday who was from the earlier generation, Leslie Marmon Silko and Michael Doris. (UTwatch, 2012)
The Hispanics also had renowned writers such as Rudolfo Anaya who earned his place as a leading Chicano writer with his first novel Bless Me, Ultima (1972). There is also Nash Candelaria who wrote the Memories of the Alhambra which traced a family’s history through various generations.
Among the Asian immigrants there have been fictional works that speak about the heritage left behind and the challenges and experiences they had while adjusting to the different ways of Americans. One of the most successful writers in America with a Chinese ancestry is Maxine Hong Kingston. (Perkins, 2011)
Modood, T. (2007). Multiculturalism: a civic idea. Cambridge: Polity.Print.
Perkins. (2011). American Literature: Civil War to Present. New York: Mcgraw Hill.Print.
UTwatch. (2012). The “Multiculturalism” Movement and the Making of a Right Wing Counterattack at UT-Austin. Web.
Wilson, K. (2012). Multicultural Education. Retrieved from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/keith.html