The New American Ethnic Experience: From Melting Pot to Multiracial Tapestry

“When we reject a single story, we regain a kind of paradise.” Nigerian novelist, Chimamanda Adichie

The United States is a nation of immigrants. Yet today we grapple with immigration issues, racism, intolerance, uncertainty, and a confused national identity. Recently the Census Bureau projected that by 2045, whites will become a minority for the first time, comprising less than half the population (49.7 percent), with Hispanics 24.6 percent, Blacks 13.1 percent, Asians 7.9 percent, and 3.8 percent multiracial. According to William H. Frey, author of Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographies are Remaking America, racial minorities will become the “primary demographic engine of the nation’s future growth.” What will the nation be like then?

This course will help us better understand what it is like to be one of the major minorities living within the United States. In each book, the characters struggle to find their own identity within American society while not abandoning their essential selves formed by their cultural heritage.

These texts will help us better understand and perhaps identify more with these minority characters.

Furthermore, all texts but one provide a viewpoint from a once-immigrant racial group that will become part of the minority majority in the near future. The exception is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian because American Indians are our only indigenous racial group.

We will also explore a variety of genres: a young adult novel, a contemporary sci fi space time exploration of race, vignettes, a graphic novel, and a standard narrative.

When possible, we will also ask minority guest speakers to join our discussions.

A main purpose of the class is to stimulate discussion and exchange insights and realizations informed by our readings. Each week topics will be assigned to groups, that will discuss and then share with the other groups. Time will be left for open discussion.

  • Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. (Young Adult but highly regarded among older adults as well.)
  • Kindred, Octavia E. Butler. (Sci Fi/Space Travel of an African American woman between the contemporary world and that of)
  • House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. (Mexican American novel told in vignettes.)
  • American Born Chinese, by Gene Huen Yang. (A graphic n Presents three interconnecting stories that at first seem widely divergent.)
  • The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow. (A girl of mixed races. Winner of the 2006 Bellweather Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.)
  • Concluding Insights and Issues

Tuesdays, 2:00 pm — 3:30 pm
January 22 — February 26
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

Cost: $100

Although Anthony Fragola (M.P.W., University of Southern California), Professor Emeritus of Media Studies at UNC Greensboro, is best known for his work in film, he also earned a degree in Comparative Literature from UNC - Chapel Hill.  His short stories have appeared in literary magazines both in the U.S. and abroad, and several have been aired on the BBC World Service Short Story Series.


To register online, visit Emeritus Online Registration, choose the class you want, and click the Add-to-Cart button. Then click the Check Out button and complete the requested information. An email address is required.