Lost in whiteness : Jews writing blacks in post-World War II American fiction
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2010.; Includes bibliographical references.; Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format. The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the significance of the black presence in post-World War II Jewish American fiction. After World War II, the formerly racialized American Jews were able to embrace whiteness. Although the whitening of the Jews enabled their rapid ascent into social and economic prominence, it also forced them into a world of compulsory homogeneity. Many "whitened" Jews thus lost their sense of ethnic distinction and cultural expressiveness. Despite a desire for the social and economic status and security that accompanied whiteness, there was often resistance to the whitening process and to the accompanying repression of ethnicity. In grappling with their newly acquired whiteness, many Jews have thus consistently wavered between an embrace of white Americanness and a yearning for the restoration of their lost ethnic distinction. I will examine how black characters are a means through which texts explore the Jews' uneasiness concerning their postwar racial status. I focus my study on three novels by Jewish American authors: Jo Sinclair's The Changelings, Jay Neugeboren's Big Man, and Lore Segal's Her First American. These novels were published in different decades and feature profoundly different styles, plots, and protagonists, but they share a post-World War II setting and a black presence. All three texts examine a relationship between a Jew and an African American in postwar America and employ blackness to examine the complex mixture of Jewish fears and desires regarding their new racial identity. These texts suggest the Jews' ambivalence concerning their entry into the homogeneous world of whiteness and the enduring nature of the desire for identity fluidity rather than rigidity.
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