How We Found America

Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives

By Magdalena J. Zaborowska

How We Found America

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4509-7
    Published: June 1995

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Until now, the East European canon in American literature has been dominated by male dissident figures such as Brodsky, Milosz, and Kundera. Magdalena Zaborowska challenges that canon by demonstrating the contributions of lesser-known immigrant and expatriate women writers from Poland and Russia: Mary Antin, Anzia Yezierska, Elizabeth Stern, Maria Kuncewicz, and Eva Hoffman. She maintains that gendered readings of their novels and autobiographies help us to realize that immigrant women writers offer a special perspective on what it means to leave a homeland, never to be able to truly return, to come as the 'other' to an alien land, and to undergo the multidimensional experience of finding America. Through close examination of the narrative strategies employed by these women, Zaborowksa demonstrates how their works subvert traditional ways of writing and reading the 'official' rhetoric of the American Dream, which so often suppresses 'unofficial' cultural differences. She constructs the immigrant woman's novel as a truly intercultural genre: one that embraces fiction, autobiography, and documentary; one that reflects a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds; and one that foregrounds issues of canon revision, gender identity, and multiculturalism.

Originally published 1995.

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About the Author

A Polish scholar working in the United States, Magdalena J. Zaborowska is associate professor in the Program in American Culture and Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan.
For more information about Magdalena J. Zaborowska, visit the Author Page.


“Zaborowska offers fresh interpretations of writings that many historians themselves know and use.”---Journal of American Ethnic History

"An important work for our understanding of America's evolving multicultural literature."--American Literature

"A fascinating study of immigrant literature from Mary Antin to Vladimir Nabokov, written from the unusual perspective of a feminist scholar educated both in East Europe and in America. Magdalena Zaborowska discusses cultural translations as few critics can."--Wai Chee Dimock, Brandeis University

"An original and exciting study that is on the cutting edge of issues of multiculturalism, gendered identities and relations, and the roles of literature in society and history."--Emory Elliott, University of California, Riverside

"A major advance in reconceptualizing immigrant narratives as well as feminist critical theory. It opens up illuminating ways of thinking about literature away from literature, so to speak, or textual production in an adopted land and language. . . . Zaborowska's interpretive readings are often astoundingly innovative and intriguing, and their comparative juxtaposition strikingly original."--Halina Filipowicz, University of Wisconsin