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McNair Scholars Program

Elise Gaines Herrmann, Au.D.

she/her

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English (December 2008)

Doctor of Audiology from Wichita State University

McNair Project: East Indian Women as immigrants through the eyes of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (2007)

Mentor: Lisa Tatonetti, Ph.D.

Through her writing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni opens a window into the often overlooked experience of East Indian women as immigrants in fiction. Divakaruni addresses numerous issues that are faced by East Indian immigrant women. Among these issues, this paper will focus on Divakaruni’s presentation of three main conflicts commonly overcome by her characters after immigration. The conflicts include the American Dream vs. ethnic reality (when the characters idealistic impressions of America from afar, are challenged by American racism), culture retention vs. assimilation (characters struggle with identifying with a new American culture more than their traditional culture), and entitlement vs. sacrifice (the character subscribes to a belief that that their life is perfect according to American standards and they deny any connection with their cultural heritage).

In order to explore these conflicts, this paper will concentrate on selected stories from Divakaruni’s first short story collection Arranged Marriage: “Silver Pavements”, “Clothes”, “A Perfect life” and “Doors”. This first collection of stories includes a glossary of words from different Indian languages that have been used in her stories. This addition serves to ease the understanding of readers who are not familiar with Bengali or Hindi languages or who are a generation or more removed from them, widening Divakaruni’s audience. Whether intentional or not, Divakaruni’s writing serves as a foothold toward the mission of narrowing the rifts of misconception between East Indian immigrant women, their descendants and American women. Her stories offer a more intimate view of the struggles of East Indian immigrant women, often answering questions that many fear asking.

McNair Project: Yusef Komunyakaa's Search for Truth (2008)

Mentor: Jonathan Holden, Ph.D.

The realities of American social structure and belief systems are often washed over by tropes of the American Dream and the great Democracy. When the U.S. experiences a social or political failure, the situation is constantly re-approached through the lens of these tropes, obscuring the characteristics of those involved and never addressing the situation’s outcome. The poetry of Yusef Komunyakaa does not avoid addressing the social and political failures of the United States. Researching Komunyakaa’s background and analyzing his poems (specifically those pertaining to America’s tradition of racism and the Vietnam War) allows readers to see how Komunyakaa’s discussion of these failures undermined America’s heroic narrative created to cope with the social failure of racism and political and military failure of the Vietnam War.