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Mistaken Identity in “Incognegro”?

In the last post, I wrote about Zane Pinchback discussing the social constructions of race and identity in Mt Johnson and Warren Pleece’s Incognegro. Today, I want to continue that discussion by looking at the last section of the graphic novel, specifically Zane’s comments to Alonzo upon arriving back in Harlem and the reveal at the end the final pages where the white citizens of Fayetteville, MO, see Huey, the Klan member, as Incognegro and label him as such. Each of these scenes, as the previous ones I have written about, drive home the ways that we construct identity. specifically the manner in which identity comes to serve the needs of others, not necessarily ourselves.

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Deconstructing Whiteness in “Incognegro”

Every semester, I am amazed at the connective tissue that runs through the texts I place on the syllabus and the themes that arise. No matter the class, I construct my courses around themes, all teachers do. However, when a class ends poignantly on a recurring theme, I find it a really serendipitous occasion. This semester, in my Ethnic American Literature course, we explored the ways that we, as individuals, construct our identities based on ourselves and on the ways that others view us, specifically when they place their preconceived notions upon us. We looked at this from the beginning of the semester through the end. We explored it in the ways that Manar navigates her identity in a new land in Mohja Kahf’s “Manar of Hama” to the ways that Long Vanh navigates his Afro-Asian identity in the face of the community and his own family in Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s The Land South of the Clouds.

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Juan de Pareja and Identity in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced”

Last post, I wrote about the opening of Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced where Emily works on a portrait of her husband Amir. Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s Portrait of Juan de Pareja serves as the inspiration for Emily’s portrait of Amir, and the two discuss Juan de Pareja and specifically the language that they use to construct his identity. The exploration of identity and the ways that other project their preconceived notions and ideas onto others is at the core of Disgraced, and today I want to look at a few other sections of the play that explore this theme.

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Identity in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced”

In the last post, I talked some more about about Isabel Wilkerson’s statement from Caste when she says, “None of us are ourselves.” I looked at that statement in relation to Long Vahn in Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s The Land South of the Clouds. Today, I want to look at Wilkerson’s statement and my own assertion that we can never know our “true” selves in relation to another text I taught this semester, Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Disgraced (2013). At its core, Disgraced deals with the ways that individuals navigate their identities when those identities do not originate from within but originate from outside of the person.

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Identity in Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s “The Land South of the Clouds”: Part III

Over the last couple of posts, I have written about issues of identity in Genaro Kỳ Lý Smith’s The Land South of the Clouds. Today, I want to conclude the discussion that I started last post and look at the rest of “Beautiful,” the chapter where Long Vanh details his relationships with women, focusing on the white woman Melanie first then his relationship with his cousin, Phương. From the outset, Melanie positions Long Vanh as a “beautiful,” “exotic” individual that, while challenging her ideals of white beauty does not obliterate them. She attended California Arts Institute with Long Vanh, and one day, he says, “She approached me one day after class and asked me what I was.” Melanie’s question presents Long Vanh not as a person but rather as an entity, an entity that Melanie cannot define.

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