Contemporary adolescent fiction from the South Asian diaspora : multicultural children's literature of the millennium and the potential for bibliotherapy

Emmambokus, Shehrazade (2011) Contemporary adolescent fiction from the South Asian diaspora : multicultural children's literature of the millennium and the potential for bibliotherapy. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The study of children's literature from the South Asian diaspora has been mostly overlooked by postcolonial studies, cultural studies and children's literature studies alike. This thesis responds to this academic oversight and it is not only the first study to solely explore the diasporic experience presented in these novels, but also opens up an area of research which has great cross-disciplinary potential. At the centre of this thesis is the argument that existing theories of identity negotiation offer only partial explanations of how young, second generation individuals negotiate their cultural identities, and that children's literature, by contrast, illuminates an alternative means of identity formation. There is no definitive cultural identity model which focuses solely on how post-migrant generations, including foreign-born migrant children, negotiate their cultural identities. Yet the fiction this thesis examines demands the need for precisely such a model. Drawing on the works of Homi Bhabha, Avtar Brah and Stuart Hall, the model that emerges from the fiction is best identified as what I have termed: Overlapping Space. Engaging with a wide range of postcolonial, cultural and sociological theorists, the study focuses on novels published since 2000 and identifies how they offer a model of Overlapping Space identity formation. Engaging with Bali Rai's What's Your Problem? and Kavita Daswani's Indie Girl the thesis begins by identifying how issues of race and racism are still prevalent to contemporary concerns. Developing these concerns, the study draws on Marina Budhos's Ask Me No Questions and Mitali Perkins's First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover to investigate how media influences post-9/11 have affected young peoples' cultural self-identities. Shifting the focus from imposed 'homeland' cultural alienation to self-imposed 'homeland' cultural estrangement through abjection, the study identifies the psychological effects of visiting ancestral homelands as depicted in Vineeta Vijayaraghavan's Motherland and Mitali Perkins' Monsoon Summer in order to demonstrate the experience of emotional situational ethnicity through unexpected enculturations. Continuing with the discussion of emotional situational ethnicity, using Narinder Dhami's novelization Bend it Like Beckham and Baljinder K. Mahal's The Pocket Guide to Being an Indian Girl, this thesis explores how young second generation members of the South Asian diaspora navigate between 'peer' and 'parent' zones and analyses the significant role that subcultures can play in the approval of 'transgression'. Lastly, by focussing on Tanuja Desai Hidier's Born Confused and Bali Rai's The Last Taboo, this thesis continues its exploration in 'transgressive' behaviours and analyses the dating and interracial relationship cultural concerns presented in these two novels. By exploring these themes, issues and concerns, this study ultimately foregrounds each text's potential for bibliotherapy and demonstrates that, as well as making significant contributions to literature and cultural studies, these novels serve an important social function as well. Consequently, via the universalising bibliotherapeutic function of these novels, this thesis ultimately argues that these novels not only foreground and legitimise Overlapping Space identities but actively help build these identities as well.

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