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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Toni Cade Bambara
- Sandra Cisneros
- Judith Ortiz Cofer
- Leslie Feinberg
- Diane Glancy
- Maxine Hong Kingston
- David Mamet
- Toni Morrison
- Thomas Pynchon
- Alice Walker
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities


The information for each author includes biographical and contextual materials and activities.

Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995)
In addition to writing many stories and novels, Toni Cade Bambara was a civil rights activist, teacher, and editor. She lived in Harlem for the first ten years of her life, and her fiction reflects her intimate knowledge of city spaces. She also traveled extensively in adulthood, making trips to Cuba and Vietnam and a move to Atlanta. Bambara was committed to using her skills as a writer not only... Go

Sandra Cisneros (b. 1954)
Sandra Cisneros was born in Chicago but spent most of her childhood and youth moving back and forth between Chicago and Mexico. By addressing themes of identity, poverty, and gender in lyrical and sensual language, she has become one of the nation's most well known and respected Chicana authors. Nonetheless, her vibrant style has not always been welcome, as she faced... Go

Judith Ortiz Cofer (b. 1952)
Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormingueros, Puerto Rico, and was educated in the United States, primarily New Jersey. Her fiction incorporates elements of memoir as well as of the oral storytelling tradition that she learned, and that comforted her, while she was growing up in Puerto Rican communities. As a writer of fiction, poetry, and essays, Cofer has merged her Latin and Anglo experiences to express... Go

Leslie Feinberg (b. 1949)
Like her character Jess Goldberg, Leslie Feinberg was born in Buffalo, New York, where she grew up before the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion, which many observers consider the watershed moment in the twentieth-century movement to secure the rights of nonheterosexual people. Feinberg struggled to find her identity in a culture that seemingly had no place for her as a transgendered individual. Now, as a journalist and... Go

Diane Glancy (b. 1941)
Born in Kansas City, Diane Glancy is a poet, short story writer, playwright, and professor. She received her B.A. from the University of Missouri in 1964, her M.A. from Central State University in 1983, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop in 1988. Currently, she teaches creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her father's Cherokee heritage is evident... Go

Maxine Hong Kingston (b. 1940)
Maxine Hong Kingston, née Maxine Ting Hong, was born in Stockton, California, to Chinese immigrant parents who left successful careers in China to raise their children in the United States. Her fiction thematically deals almost exclusively with her heritage as a Chinese American woman, including the struggles of trying to balance her parents' cultural values with American customs and... Go

David Mamet (b. 1947)
David Mamet was born on the Jewish south side of Chicago. His plays have been performed throughout the country, in his hometown as well as in New York City, where Mamet studied the Stanislavsky method of acting. He has said that this method made him aware of how "the language we use, its rhythm, actually determines the way we behave, more than the other way around." It is important, then, for... Go

Toni Morrison (b. 1931)
Unlike many African American authors, Toni Morrison has set most of her fiction not in the rural South or the urban North but in Lorain, Ohio, where she was born as Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931. She attended Howard and Cornell Universities before beginning careers in teaching and editing. While teaching, Morrison counted among her students civil rights activist Stokeley Carmichael and prominent... Go

Thomas Pynchon (b. 1937)
Thomas Pynchon has become famous as the man who does not want to be famous. Little is known about this author's personal life: we know only that Pynchon was born in 1937 on Long Island, New York, and that he graduated from Cornell University in the 1950s, after which he served in the navy. Though he is notoriously reclusive, he reportedly lives somewhere in northern California. Devoted fans track... Go

Alice Walker (b. 1944)
Born in rural Eatonton, Georgia, but educated in the North, Alice Walker has been able to analyze the rural South, the focus of most of her writing, as both an insider and an outsider. In her works, which include novels, short stories, poetry collections, and essays, she has drawn inspiration from her own life experiences, including an abortion and a visit to Africa while she was attending... Go

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