Multicultural literature features characters and themes from countries around the world. Writers in this genre express their ideas and values through the characters featured in their work.
By examining these works in detail, you can learn how to understand them and broaden your understanding.
Definition of Multicultural Literature
Let us begin by first defining some key terms. Multicultural literature describes how people live in different parts of the world. In other words, we can learn about their culture and beliefs. It also presents an accurate representation of the culture it portrays and must be free from stereotypes, or beliefs about a particular group that are oversimplified or based upon generalizations. Through these accurate representations, we can build a clear understanding of the culture’s heritage as it is portrayed in the text.
The Kite Runner
One novel that presents this well is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Events such as kite running are deeply rooted in Afghan culture. In the story, set in Afghanistan and the United States, we follow the journey of our protagonist, Amir, as he struggles to gain the approval of his father, Baba. Told through a series of flashbacks mixed with events in the present, we accompany Amir on his quest for his approval and a way to make peace with the internal conflict he faces. Much of this conflict comes from the relationship with his father and his close friend, Hassan. Amir and Hassan are friends even though they are from different social classes, and throughout the novel, we see the cultural importance of friendship, family, and the division of classes in society.
Things Fall Apart
This type of relationship is also expressed in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which explores the culture of the Igbo people of Nigeria. In his work, Achebe exposes us to the life of Okonkwo, leader of the fictional tribe of Umuofia.
They are representative of the Igbo culture. Like Amir, Okonkwo experiences internal conflict that stems from his relationship to his father. He is ashamed of his father’s laziness and lack of productivity.As a result of this, Okonkwo struggles to build a reputation worthy of respect. However, Okonkwo sees much of his father in his son, Nwoye. Okonkwo sees Nwoye’s lack of masculinity to blame for his interest in the Christian missionaries who have established themselves near to his village.
Much of the novel focuses on the struggle between Okowno and his son and the culture clash between the Umuofia/Igbo people and the missionaries.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garc;a M;rquez craftily blends culture with fantasy in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The novel tells the story of Jos; Arcadio Buend;a and his wife, Ursula, as they leave their home to found the city of Mercado. Throughout the novel, Marquez takes the reader on a journey through time and frequently shifts between the past, present, and future.
On our journey, we meet Jos; and Ursula’s descendants as we watch the citizens of Mercado struggle to hold onto traditions as the world changes around them.Each new generation of their family represents the cultural and industrial changes of Mercado from a rural village to a modern town. In the town’s final moments, their last descendant, Aureliano, manages to translate a mystical scroll that contains Mercado’s history. Sadly, upon completing this task, a hurricane wipes out the town and all traces of its existence.
The Importance of Multicultural Literature
Gaining a better understanding of other cultures, such as those featured in the novels we’ve discussed, can help us gain insight into our own.
We often accept things at face value because we have become accustomed to them. We sometimes avoid, intentionally or otherwise, questioning longstanding traditions and beliefs and may eventually forget their origin and meaning. It is important to remember the past, as it can help guide us in the decisions we make.
Multicultural literature can provide insight into a culture’s thoughts and beliefs. As you read these stories, we can learn about the history, people, and experiences of other cultures. In turn, we can learn more about our own cultures and its values.
We can also examine the truth, or fiction, behind certain stereotypes and formulate our own views.
Lesson at a Glance
Multicultural literature describes how people live in different parts of the world. In other words, we can learn about their culture and beliefs. Themes such as family, belonging, and preservation are common across all cultures. Three examples of multicultural literature are:
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Afghanistan
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe: Igbo people of Nigeria
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: Colombia
Upon reviewing this lesson, you should be able to
- Define multicultural literature
- Describe some themes that are common in multicultural literature
- Cite and summarize examples of multicultural literature