Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reading Diaspora Fiction

 Excerpted from: MAGNT Research Report (ISSN. 1444-8939) Vol.3 ( 1). PP: 469-475

Reflections on Diaspora Subjectivity

Nasser Motallebzadeh1, Leyli Jamali1, Majid Alavi1 and Nasser Dashtpayma1,  Ph.D. Department of English, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran

Reading Diaspora Fiction

Taking A Loaf of Bread, a short story coming from Stephen Poleskie's new collection Acorn's Card, as an example of diasporic cultural production, it is attempted to show how this approach is used in critical evaluation of short stories. Stephen Poleskie is a Polish American short-story writer who writes in a fable-like mixture of realism and magic.

A Loaf of Bread narrates the story of a Polish immigrant family in America. From the very beginning the reader knows that the family are citizens of their new country but "they were, nevertheless, without a place. America was still to them a foreign country where it was not easy to remain yourself and keep your dignity". Jan Lesnachevski, the father of the family, now a plumber here in America, was an engineer back in Poland. His beautiful wife "Magdalena didn’t teach in a university anymore, as she had done in Gdansk, but cleaned houses for the rich who lived on River Walk Dive- people who thought they were being nice to her by giving their castoff clothes, which she accepted and then gave away herself". Indeed "this reeking and rat infested tenement flat was not exactly what John and his wife had expected when they emigrated from Poland".

What is captured in these extracts from the story is the family's disillusionment with American dream. Jan now thinks of return but "he had written so many letters back, telling everyone how well he and his family were doing - the townhouse in the city, the cottage on the lake, two cars, one Cadillac, and his children in the best schools. The Lesnachevskis were truly living an American dream". Previously they tried to make a home out of this new country, but "while they worked hard to improve their knowledge of their adopted country, its history and its culture, they were forever circling outside". They thought they can be truly American if they master the language but after mastering English with an only slight polish accent "they were however, dismayed by the fact that they could not comprehend most people, especially their children, who went to a public school and talked like rappers on MTV.

Applying the analytical tools and procedures based on diaspora subjectivity we have to see what kind of subjectivity Jan and his wife may nurture under such conditions. Where is their real home after all? Drawing on Mishra's theory of subject's unresolved positionality in relation to homeland and hostland which creates a severed sutured identity, one can see the plight of these people. The rest of the story supports this theory. "Whenever Jan talked about the possibility of going back to Poland—he didn’t say going home anymore as both he and Magdalena were no longer sure where home really was—all his children ever said was: Poland! Like are you totally out of your mind, dude? No way!"

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