American dream and German nightmare? identity, gender, and memory in the autobiographic work of Esmeralda Santiago and Emine Sevgi Ozdamar
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This thesis compares the autobiographic work of Esmeralda Santiago and Emine Sevgi Özdamar focusing on the aspects of ethnic identity, gender, as well as history and memory. The argument is that both authors' work not only reflects the cultural origins of each writer and her trauma of loss, but also each host country's social realities and conflicts. In spite of alienation and loss of home and language, both protagonists create "touching tales," a phrase coined by Leslie Adelson that refers to the entanglement between cultures, stressing more the common ground between them than the differences. Santiago's work stresses the dividedness of American society along racial and ethnic lines, but also the opportunity for the immigrant to reinvent herself and overcome racial and social boundaries. Özdamar on the other hand reflects on the dividedness and traumatization of Germany through World War II, the Holocaust, the East-West division, and the terrorism of the 1970s. She compares it to the political and social division within Turkey as results of the Armenian genocide and military coups. While Santiago views American culture with distance, Özdamar displays an enthusiastic reception of leftist writers like Bertolt Brecht and German literature in general. Both autobiographical subjects find a way to reconcile their own inner divisions through theater work, which combines universal and multicultural elements.
Schwalen, Anja Margarethe (2007). American dream and German nightmare? identity, gender, and memory in the autobiographic work of Esmeralda Santiago and Emine Sevgi Ozdamar. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from