In an innovative critique of traditional approaches to autobiography, Anne E. Goldman convincingly demonstrates that ethnic women can and do speak for themselves, even in the most unlikely contexts. Citing a wide variety of nontraditional texts—including the cookbooks of Nuevo Mexicanas, African American memoirs of midwifery and healing, and Jewish women's histories of the garment industry—Goldman illustrates how American women have asserted their ethnic identities and made their voices heard over and sometimes against the interests of publishers, editors, and readers. While the dominant culture has interpreted works of ethnic literature as representative of a people rather than an individual, the working women of this study insist upon their own agency in narrating rich and complicated self-portraits.
Anne E. Goldman is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"An exciting, original contribution to American Women's Cultural Studies. . . . Goldman challenges even poststructural views of the author and reminds us how women found ways to subvert traditional scripts in representing themselves and their relation to their cultures."—Barbara T. Christian, author of Black Feminist Criticism
"Always attentive to historical and discursive contexts, Goldman looks for the pressure points of these nontraditional narratives where the discursive call to speak as a representative of a collectivity—what she describes as the ethnographic imperative—gives way to the impulse to 'self-distinction'—what she describes as the individualizing logic of self-possession. In doing so she compels theorists of autobiography to rethink the elasticities of autobiographical utterance by means of a negotiable 'I'-'We' continuum. She compels us, that is, to rethink conventional understandings of genre. Her argument is incisive, her readings nuanced, her prose lucid."—Sidonie Smith, author of Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women's Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century