American Nanny: Locating the Marginalized Third World Laborer Through Contemporary Fiction
Hernandez Garcia, Carmen Analy
Motherhood, feminism, and domestic labor have been topics of significant debate for years. Despite the growth of feminist ideals, child-care is still a sensitive topic, especially for women who consider hiring a personal nanny. What are the implications of hiring a nanny? Where should one start looking? How good does her English need to be? Despite the high demand for child-care and the equivalent need for employment by working-class immigrant females, women who work as nannies often face challenges such as ethnic biases and even lack of rights and benefits. This project aims to explore the ways in which recent fiction depicts the role of the Third World working-class female nanny. I focus on three novels: Happy Family (2008) by Wendy Lee, Lucy (1990) by Jamaica Kincaid, and My Hollywood (2010) by Mona Simpson. Each text centers on the nanny’s identity and voice, exposing the struggles and marginalization of the working-class immigrant female and countering one-dimensional views of nannies’ identities and lives. Novelists’ redefinition of the Third World working class nanny thus resists stereotyped images of the nanny constructed by popular culture over time (e.g., the unreliable teenaged babysitter and even the criminal nanny). Specifically, I claim that the novels resist devaluing the nanny’s identity and voice by: 1) raising awareness of the diversity of nanny narratives and 2) countering the notion that the injustices they suffer are solely economic. I situate these three novels as part of the larger field of Working-Class Studies, where rich work on narratives of agricultural and domestic workers has already begun. These texts add an important dimension to our understanding of feminism, race, class studies, and even globalization.
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