Metanarrative in Ethnic Autobiography for Children: Laurence Yep's the Lost Garden and Judith Ortiz Cofer's Silent Dancing

By Davis, Rocio G. | MELUS, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Metanarrative in Ethnic Autobiography for Children: Laurence Yep's the Lost Garden and Judith Ortiz Cofer's Silent Dancing


Davis, Rocio G., MELUS


Considering the dramatic developments of the autobiographical form and the politics of identity formation in this century, writers and critics have become increasingly conscious of the play of the autobiographical act itself, "in which the materials of the past are shaped by memory and imagination to serve the needs of present consciousness. Autobiography in our time is increasingly understood as both an act of memory and an art of the imagination" (Eakin 5-6). This understanding has important implications for ethnic life writing, which has consistently challenged and widened the boundaries of traditional autobiography by blending diverse formal techniques with increasingly complex questions about self-representation and the process of signification. This essay on metanarrative in ethnic autobiography for children supports the idea that language, immigrant histories, family, and location exist in a relation of dynamic interdependent parts. Laurence Yep's The Lost Garden and Judith Ortiz Cofer's Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood illustrate the writers' understanding of how "the art of self-invention is governed by a dialectical interplay between the individual and his or her culture" (Eakin 256).

Paul John Eakin posits that the autobiographical act figures as a third and culminating phase in a history of self-consciousness that begins with the moment of language in early childhood and deepens in a second-level order of experience in childhood and adolescence in which the individual achieves a distinct and explicit self-consciousness as a self. In the developmental perspective, the autobiographical act becomes a mode of self-invention that is always practiced first in living and eventually becomes a text. Eakin views the processes entailed by the autobiographical act as a recapitulation of the fundamental processes of identity formation: "in this sense the writing of autobiography emerges as a second acquisition of language, a second coming into being of self, a self-conscious self-consciousness" (18). More specifically, this self-consciousness is negotiated through the metanarrative aspects of the text, illustrating how patterns of dialectical self-invention-which in these cases privilege access to and negotiation with a second language and culture--are related to the sense of mastery of language and issues of self-representation that shape the future artist.

An ethnic writer who chooses to write an autobiography for children widens the implications of life writing within the context of identity formation. Children's texts are culturally formative, educationally, intellectually, and socially. Ethnic children's literature highlights the meaning or value that society attributes to ethnic differences and intercultural relationships, and how each group occupies or moves within certain areas or exerts specific influence on the place they are in and the community they form. For the children of minority groups in the United States today, the issue of how to integrate the past with the present, how to appreciate heritage and establish bonds by forming peer communities is essential to the questions about identity that face all youth: about defining self and other, and about the values they inherit from their families, those they accept and those they reject (Natov 38).

More importantly, as Carole Carpenter argues, the most successful children's books reject the assumption that children are merely receivers of culture and present them as "creative manipulators of a dynamic network of concepts, actions, feelings and products that mirror and mould their experience as children" (57). When an essential part of that network of concepts involves ethnic appreciation and understanding, the autobiographical text plays a more active role in articulating the context within which children can learn to find meaning and engage in a significant process of self-awareness and self-formation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Metanarrative in Ethnic Autobiography for Children: Laurence Yep's the Lost Garden and Judith Ortiz Cofer's Silent Dancing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.