Books About Identity

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There are many facets to identity. We are born with certain physical characteristics which distinguish us from our siblings. As we grow, our personal traits develop to further our sense of self. Social and ethnic groupings define our identities, as do our professions and religious beliefs. Identity becomes an issue when it causes individuals to feel discomfort. Racial discrimination and gender bias are cases in point, where the identity of a person is used to make them feel inferior. When people are transplanted into a community where they are culturally different, they may feel the need to alter their identities. Adolescents may experience a feeling of not belonging, which could lead to identity crisis. All these experiences have been explored by the authors of the books mentioned below.

These books deal with discrimination based on racial or religious identity. The themes range from the oppression of the Jews in Europe to the treatment of African-Americans in USA, including the experiences of mixed race persons, migrants and refugees.

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  2. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  3. Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena
  4. The Help by Katherine Stockett
  5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  6. Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say
  7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  9. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  10. Red Leaves by Sita Brahmachari

As children are growing up, they become aware of differences in class, race, ability and lifestyles. Teenagers are vulnerable, and are prone to feelings of isolation. This may cause what is termed an identity crisis, where they are uneasy with their perception of themselves, as distinguished from their peers. The following books are written from these perspectives.

  1. The Outsiders by SE Hinton
  2. The Tulip Touch by Anne Fine
  3. Kate by Jean Little
  4. The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  5. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  7. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman
  8. The Crew by Bali Rai
  9. Bitter Melon by Cara Chow
  10. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
  11. How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity edited by Michael Cart
  12. You Don’t Know Me by David Klass

It is significant that in earlier times, the Bronte sisters wrote under male pen names. So did many other women, as they were not confident that their work would be accepted otherwise. In the early 1970s, there was a spurt in a new kind of literature- women were writing in a new and different way. Though there were well established women authors, women usually identified themselves in relation to their families, or as lovers. The new trend gave birth to a gender identity that recognised women as individuals, and validated their development, their relationship with other women, their careers and aspirations and many other concerns. Here is a selection that represents this trend.

  1. The Other Side by Mary Gordon
  2. Final Payments by Mary Gordon
  3. The Company of Women by Mary Gordon
  4. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  5. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan
  6. Small Changes by Marge Piercy
  7. Sula by Toni Morrison
  8. Song of Soloman by Toni Morrison
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  10. Tar Baby by Toni Morrison

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