"Identity Negotiation and Alien Residency" Caribbean-American "In-Betweenity" in Elizabeth Nunez's "Anna In Between, Boundaries," and "Not for Everyday Use"

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Kathleen Phillips Lewis


In her memoir, Not for Everyday Use (2014), and her novel Anna in Between (2009) and its sequel, Boundaries (2011), Elizabeth Nunez explores the nature of the migrant experience for first generation Afro-Caribbean immigrants to the USA. With specific reference to the use of language, characterization, history, imagery, and the interweaving of history, she analyzes the complexities of that reality as they attempt to adjust to a host locale (USA) that has had, from its inception, a very contentious relationship with blackness that fragments potential solidarity of blackness. Extrapolating from the lives her protagonists as filtered through the prism of her own migrant journey, Nunez sees them as existing in a permanent state of liminality from which there is no escape. Despite the finality of the act of migration, Caribbean-American
lives are forever in a state of flux over which they can exert only limited control. Migration promises freedom and yet denies its full efflorescence; it offers the excitement of choice but only provides the exercise of it remains within the confines of fixed circumferences; it encourages belonging, yet castigates the complacency that belonging engenders. This paper will show that Nunez clearly represents the Afro-Caribbean immigrant life in America as uneasy existence in unsafe space, yet sends a firm message that the disillusionment of that reality is more palatable than the idea of return. The state of in-betweenity, therefore, while not static in essential nature, is as permanent and unavoidable as is the act of migration itself. In order to feel more at ease the migrant must quickly learn the balancing act of becoming yet never being; the migrant must come to appreciate the complex dance between commonality and contestation even within a diaspora of shared African origin.


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Author Biography

Kathleen Phillips Lewis, Spelman College

Kathleen Phillips Lewis, PhD, is associate professor of History, division chair for the Humanities, and former director of the African Diaspora and the World program at Spelman College. She teaches Caribbean, Modern European, and African Diaspora history. Her works have appeared as articles in journals such as the Journal of Caribbean History and as chapters in several edited anthologies. She is currently completing revisions on her book manuscript on the Trinidad cocao industry for publication. Her most recent articles and second book manuscript in progress focus on the ways in which Afro-Caribbean women at home and in the diaspora use history, folklore, mythology, oral tradition, Anansi strategies, and fiction to address the individual and collective traumas of post-colonial existence and to find agency within.