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Identity in motion: The symbiotic connection between migration and identity in four 20th century novels by African diasporic women writers

Tosha Kabara Sampson-Choma, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines the migratory experiences of the protagonists from four African diasporic novels: Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy (1999), Kehinde by Buchi Emecheta (1994), Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat (1994), and The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982). When analyzed comparatively these texts demonstrate that a completely integrated identity (that merges two cultures) is contingent upon a return to the protagonist's cultural roots either by the protagonist herself or someone who is closely aligned with her. The protagonist or her representative must travel to her ancestral homeland and in the process develop a value system that reflects the duality of her identity. In my analysis I assert that the characters’ journey toward empowered selfhood also requires an interdependent relationship between women, which includes a connection to a female elder or culture bearer, who transmits important cultural values. ^ The novels examined reflect a sampling of the diasporic migration novel in four specific geographies, Britain, Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. In some instances the migrants extend their borders and become “long distance nationalists,” who continue to claim national identity while living beyond the borders of their native country. Others, either by force or choice, are separated from their nation of origin both physically and mentally until their experiences necessitate a return to their cultural heritage and recovery of cultural elements that aid in their lives abroad. ^ The four chapters of this dissertation provide various perspectives on the migrant's experience including, the first generation adult perspective, the second generation young adult perspective, the first generation child's perspective, and the American born young adult perspective. Considering the texts,Fruit of the Lemon, Kehinde, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and The Color Purple, this dissertation uses close readings of the texts and the critical framework of Carole Boyce Davies among others to discuss the importance of migration on identity construction in four 20th century novels by African diasporic women writers.^

Subject Area

African American Studies|Literature, Modern|Literature, African|Black Studies|Literature, Caribbean|Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Sampson-Choma, Tosha Kabara, "Identity in motion: The symbiotic connection between migration and identity in four 20th century novels by African diasporic women writers" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3449913.