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Self-inscriptions : ethnic, indigenous, linguistic and female identity constructions in Canadian minority life writing. A comparison of Apolonja Kojder's "Marynia, Don't Cry" and Rita Joe's "Song of Rita Joe" Kordus, Joanna

Abstract

Despite Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism, until recently, the perspectives of the country’s lesser-known, marginalized writers have not been usually taken into consideration in mainstream discussions on the nature of Canadian identity and its socio cultural mosaic. Specifically, minority life writing narratives had generally received little critical attention in Canada. This paper aims to fill this slowly-decreasing gap through the exploration of two texts whose female writers negotiate their distinct ethnic and national selves within the cultural dominant of Canada. The essay compares Apolonja Kojder’s Polish-Canadian memoir, Marynia, Don’t Cry, to Rita Joe’s Mi’kmaq-Canadian autobiography, Song of Rita Joe. The analysis of these texts sets the Polish and Aboriginal communities into conversation, and yields a discussion on the nature of cultural, national, linguistic and female identity. It argues that identity is political, relational and always in process. Since much of the personal narrative writers’ identity struggle in an alien land and language often unravels as a translation of the self into another world, the two personal narratives add nuance to our understanding of the contradictions found in institutional policies. The study creates awareness of the literary and discursive strategies by which writers of disadvantaged communities challenge and subvert cultural oppression, identity misconstructions, and the exclusion of ethnic and women’s histories from within mainstream society. However, through the textual hybridization of cultures, languages, histories and life experiences, Kojder’s and Joe’s intention is to facilitate understanding across groups, create respect for diversity, propel social participation and induce socio political transformation. This paper means to shed light on the Canadian experience in its unique variations, and to add to life writing studies on ethnic and national individuals’ personal encounters with and within the Canadian socio- cultural and political milieu.

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