Indian-American literature is among the very "young" literatures in the United States, barely forty years old. Indians came in significant numbers to the United States only after the changes in the U.S. immigration policy of 1965. This chapter attempts to situate the emergent literature in several contexts. I begin by framing the question of identity that concerns Indians in the United States, explaining the significance of terms such as "South Asian" and "post-colonial" that often identify this literature. I then sketch the basic sociocultural formations relevant to a discussion of a post-1947 "Indian" identity. This is followed by a brief history of Indian emigration, from the turn of the century to the present, followed by an examination of the literature and its dominant concerns.
Until very recently, most scholarship encompassing the term "Asian" in America tended to exclude Indian presence and identity. The Columbia Literary History of the United States ( 1988) has a chapter on Asian-American literature, defined as "published creative writings in English by Americans of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian (for now, Burmese and Vietnamese) descent about their American experiences" (811). Anthologies of Asian-American literature have tended to assume this definition. "Asian Indian" as a separate category came into existence with the 1986 U.S. census, and only in the 1990s have Indians, whether as South Asians or as diasporic Indians, acquired a distinct literary identity. The volume Writers of the Indian Diaspora ( Nelson 1993) brought together writers of Indian origin dispersed through-out the globe, featuring among them some expatriates-permanent residents-