African American, American, and immigration literature for MMLA conference, "The Lives of Cities": In Tillie Olsen’s working class novel Yonnondio, the character Anna takes her children out, “looking for empty lots where dandelions grew,” so they may harvest dandelion greens. It is here—foraging for food in Omaha, Nebraska—that we see a glimpse into Anna’s rural past. The knowledge she has gained from her rural life allows her to supplement her family’s needs when they could not afford to buy fresh food in an urban environment. Yonnondio is not unique in chronicling migration to the city for work; there are other novels about poor people with a rural knowledge base living in an intolerable urban culture. In these stories, what is lost or gained when one migrates or immigrates from the agrarian lifestyle to the urban? Furthermore, do these characters assimilate into their urban settings, and are we to commend them or condemn them for that ability or inability to assimilate?
This panel will examine the navigation of the urban environment by working class migrant or immigrant characters from rural communities to American (especially Northern) cities. Papers can include texts showcasing rural migration to the city, black migration (such as Ellison’s The Invisible Man or Mathis’ The Twelve Tribes of Hattie), or immigration (such as Yezierska’s The Bread Givers). Possible topics are foraging, community gardens, immigrant communities/ghettoes, and old world traditions.
Please send in paper proposals of no more than 250 words by May 30, 2014 to DeMisty Bellinger-Delfeld, email@example.com.
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