Ethnic-American Literatures


Ascertaining Ethnicity

Surnames are not always indicative of ethnicity, and it can be difficult to compile a list of authors by ethnic background. To identify writers of a specific ethnic ancestry, try the following strategies:

  • Search the Literature Resource Center:
    1. Click on the "Person Search" link
    2. Scroll down to the "Ethnicity" menu box and select one of the six categories.

      Note that not all the descriptors on the "Nationality" menu (just avove "Ethnicity") apply to writers living in the U.S. (e.g., selecting "Polish" may return some names of Polish-American writers, but the majority will probably be from Poland). Selecting more than one nationality (e.g., "American" and "Japanese") returns links to writers identified as either American or Japanese, though some American writers are listed with an additional nationality.

  • Use Poets & Writers' online Directory of Writers. From the Identifies as menu, choose an ethnicity and click the Search button. The next screen should display a list of writers who have self-identifed themselves with that ethnic group.

  • Check the Nationality Index in the back of Contemporary Literary Criticism, shelved in the Uris Library Willis Room. (Note: it tends to classify most American writers as simply 'American').

  • Know that the Dictionary of Literary Biography (shelved in the Uris Library Willis Room) has some ethnic-specific volumes.

    • Use the Library Catalog to search subject headings for anthologies/multi-author collections: For example: indians of north america--literary collections

Click on the Library Catalog tab above for more information on subject searching.