Essay Sample on Comparison and Contrast Amy Tan Vs. Maya Angelou

Published: 2023-09-14
Essay Sample on Comparison and Contrast Amy Tan Vs. Maya Angelou
Essay type:  Book review
Categories:  Racism Maya Angelou Amy Tan Comparative literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 951 words
8 min read

The writings of Maya Angelou and Amy Tan both encapsulate the struggles with oppression and identity in the United States of America during the era of unbridled white supremacy. Although the two authors were born two decades apart, their literature has a succinct similarity of exclusion in a white-majority country. Tan is credited for her masterpiece works, including "Fish Cheeks," "The Joy Luck Club," "The “Bonesetter's Daughter" and "The Kitchen God's Wife," among others. On the other hand, Angelou has many poems, bibliographies, and memoirs to her name, including "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and "And Still I Rise." Through the creative and expository writings of these two authors, one understands the struggles around self-identity among the racial minority in the United States of America. This struggle was occasioned by discrimination and exclusion was manifest in different ways, including but not limited to bigotry, racial tropes, blatant social prejudice, aggression, and economic disenfranchisement. Angelou does not subscribe to the notion that being a racial minority means that one should adapt to the dominant culture. Instead, she agitates for racial recognition and equality of all.

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While the two writers aptly reflect the obstacles of minority races in the 20th century, they exhibit distinctly different responses towards overcoming the imminent barriers. Tan’s approach is adaptive in the sense that she tries to conform to the whites' ways despite being of Chinese descent. On the other hand, Angelou clamors for the dignity of the black society without giving in to the whites' imposed conformity. Angelou is very defensive of her black identity and tries in every bit to be explicit on the need for blacks to be treated equally. Maya Angelou is wittily rebellious in her attempt to defend black society. Conversely, Amy Tan does not give a lot of premium to the need for racial equality in then America. Her writing is more of a discussion, exposition, and self-pity.

While Tan narrates about her desire to belong among the whites, Angelou writes about the need for the minority black community to be granted space just like the whites. In essence, it is all about adapting to the situation for Tan without clamoring for them to be fundamentally twerked towards racial equality. Conversely, Angelou uses figurative language, symbolism, anxiety, and well-choreographed syntax intended to spur racial consciousness and attack the status quo of racial injustice. Tan's struggle is a calmer one than Angelou's constant invocation of racial justice and equality of all. In a broader sense, Angelou stands out as less interested in changing what already exists but instead focuses on submitting herself into what would be loosely defined as wilful assimilation by the status quo. Tan concedes that being of Chinese descent, she forms part of the racial minority but struggled to be part of the white majority, which proves a daunting challenge.

Tan inadvertently cuts the image of someone who wilfully sets out to recant her heritage and adopt the white American culture. In her book "Fish Cheeks," she notes that "For Christmas, I prayed for a slim new American nose" (Tan 94). On the other hand, Angelou proudly identifies herself with the racial minority, especially the blacks, she is steadfast on her stance that they deserve better. In her book "Champion of the World," Angelou proudly refers to the achievements of a legendary black boxer, Joe Luis. According to her, the blacks triumphed and demonstrated their genius but still remained embroiled in white imposed shackles of white oppression. In her “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Angelou notes, “My race groaned; It was our people falling. One more woman ambushed and raped ” (Maya, 132). This shows a woman who is sympathetic and angry with the circumstances which were befalling her people. Angelou's stance shows a stark contrast with Tan's, which is ashamed of her Chinese background. She considers herself Chinese without “proper American manners” (Tan 95).

Tan’s writing arrows down to an individual obsession to belong. She despises her Chinese heritage and fights interpersonal battles as to why she is not white. This stance projects Tan as someone who is not necessarily perturbed by the plight of other minorities. Her mentioning of some of the minorities' challenges in her writing serves mainly to inform but not necessarily show any agitations for change. Her mother talks her down and implores her to avoid self-pity and shame. Through reading Tan’s writing, one gains insights into how a typical Chinese culture look like vis-à-vis that of the whites. She leads the reader to have an idea about relatives, friends, and family.

Angelou, unlike Tan, projects herself as an embodiment of the broader minority struggle for justice. She is not self-centered in her writing but instead tries as much as possible to juxtapose what people like her have to contend with. She acknowledges the adamance of the white majority but insists that she and her racial group deserves better. Angelou does not merely mention the grim situations of minorities. Instead, she informs, provokes emotions, and agitates for change. She presents herself as an advocate of racial justice. For instance, the onset of the short story, "Champion of the World," Angelou is not entirely lost about her identity. She already acknowledges the fact t that she is an African-American girl. It is from this point of racial consciousness that she intends to clam space. She is not racially confused but feels that her race is subjected to unfair treatment, bear the brunt of racism and segregation. She then uses her writing to protest and create an awakening.

Works Cited

Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York. Random Trade Paperbacks 2009. Print.

Tan, Amy. "Fish Cheeks." The Brief Bedford Reader (2000): 92-95.

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