Date of Award

Fall 12-12-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Audrey Goodman

Second Advisor

Randy Malamud

Third Advisor

Tanya Caldwell

Abstract

Georgia has a vast immigrant community. With its temperate climate, relatively low cost of living, vibrant culture, and the world’s largest airport, the state has become a hub for healthcare, academia, technology, and industry, attracting people from across the globe. But the number of books about immigrants to Georgia does not reflect that vastness. I explore four primary texts – two novels and two memoirs – written by and about Georgia immigrants and parallel them with my own primary research – interviews conducted with immigrants to Georgia from all over the world. Immigrants who, like the characters and writers in my primary texts, are leading productive, interesting, valuable lives that make significant contributions to society, and a meaningful difference. I discover their lives parallel the themes common to these four texts: familial ties, prejudice, persistence, and obstacles.

The texts I explore are: A Free Life, by Ha Jin, former professor at Emory University, which tells the story of a family that flees China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to make a new life in Gwinnett County; The Cruel Country, by the late Judith Ortiz Cofer, who recounts her journey from her home in Georgia to Puerto Rico to be with her dying mother; The Atlas of Reds and Blues, by Devi S. Laskar, based on a real incident about a police home invasion in suburban Atlanta; and Where the Wind Leads, by Vinh Chung with Tim Downs, which tells Chung’s story of fleeing Vietnam by boat in 1979 when he was three years old. Chung did his residency in dermatology and had a surgery fellowship at Emory School of Medicine.

I conducted seventeen interviews with Georgia immigrants from Colombia, Cuba, England, France, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Korea, Laos, Lebanon, Nigeria, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, and Tunisia. Their stories – and my story, as a Georgian who is the child of immigrants and the mother of an immigrant – intersect with the texts, connecting literature to the real world.

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