Multicultural Literature of the United States
A Research Guide and Bibliography
Compiled by Fred Muratori, Olin & Uris Libraries Research & Learning Services
NOTE: A revised, updated version of this guide can be found at:
This guide contains tips and strategies for locating biographical and critical information on American writers grouped by ethnicity (e.g., African-American, Jewish-American, etc.), as well a bibliography of resources, both in print and online. Since it focuses primarily on reference materials, it is necessarily selective. The Library Catalog and Database Names will list and/or provide access to far more material than can be listed below.
- Ascertaining Ethnicity
Surnames are not always indicative of ethnicity, and often 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:
- Click on "Person Search"
- Scroll down to the "Ethnicity" menu box and select one of the six categories.
Note that not all the descriptors on the "Nationality" menu 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.
- Check the Nationality Index in the back of Contemporary Literary Criticism (although it tends to classify all American writers as simply 'American').
- Know that the Dictionary of Literary Biography has some ethnic-specific volumes (noted below).
- Use the Library Catalog to search subject headings for anthologies/multi-author collections: For example: indians of north america--literary collections
- Consult A Directory of American Poets and Fiction Writers (OLIN REF PS 129 D59), which contains an Index of Identity, listing authors under categories with which they wish to be identified, such as nationality, religion, or political affiliation.
- Using Library of Congress (LC) subject headings for ethnic-americans
The generic forms of LC subject headings and sub-headings under which ethnic-American literatures are classified are listed below. Substitite the adjectival form of the ethnicity for the word 'ethnic.' For example, you might enter a search in the Library Catalog as: hispanic americans--fiction. Substitute the literary form (e.g., fiction, drama, poetry) for 'genre,' as in american poetry--jewish authors.
- [ethnic] americans--literary collections
- [ethnic] american women--literary collections
- [ethnic] american lesbians--literary collections
- [ethnic] americans--fiction
- [ethnic] americans--poetry
- [ethnic] americans--drama
- american literature--[ethnic] american authors
- american poetry--[ethnic] american authors
- american drama--[ethnic] american authors
- short stories, american--[ethnic] american authors
- american [genre]--jewish authors*
* (Note that the subheading for Jewish authors does not use the hyphenated term "Jewish-American.")
You may also use the subdivision minority authors after literary form headings. For example:
- american poetry--minority authors
- american drama--minority authors
- american fiction--minority authors
- short stories, american--minority authors
A number of LC headings are also useful for finding more generalized materials on ethnic literatures. As a rule, they are not subdivided by geography or country name:
- ethnic groups in literature
- ethnic relations in literature
- ethnicity in literature
- immigration in literature
- marginality, social, in literature
- minorities in literature
- minority women in literature
- multiculturalism in literature
- pluralism (social sciences) in literature
- Full-Text Online Resources
- Literature Resource Center
A full-text literature database designed for the undergraduate student. Combines biographical, bibliographical, and contextual information on authors and their works (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, history, and journalism). Draws from several Gale resources (such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Contemporary Authors and Contemporary Literary Criticism) and scholarly journals, and includes Merriam-Webster's encyclopedia of literature.
- Literature Online:the home of English and American literature on the World Wide Web. [Alexandria, Va.]: Chadwyck-Healey, 1996-
A full-text collection of poetry, drama, and prose with complementary references sources. Primary texts include English poetry from 600 to the present; American and African-American poetry from 1603 to the present; English drama; English prose; articles, monographs and dissertations from the Annual bibliography of English language and literature (ABELL); full-text articles from literary journals; and biographical information on widely studied authors.
- Ethnic NewsWatch
Ethnic NewsWatch is a full-text collection of the newspapers, magazines and journals of the ethnic, minority and Native American press. Fully searchable. Covers back to 1990. Provides the option of choosing either English or Spanish language interface.
- Minority Literatures (Voice of the Shuttle)
- Literary Resources - Ethnicities and Nationalities (Rutgers)
- MLA Bibliography
The largest and most comprehensive database covering scholarship in the modern languages, linguistics, literature, folklore, and drama, including film, opera, radio, television and theater. Literary criticism and literary theory are covered extensively. Approximately 4,000 journals and series are screened, and entries for books are included. Entries appear both for collections of essays and for their contents. Coverage extends back to 1963. Subject descriptors for ethnic american literatures are usually in hyphenated form (e.g., Japanese-American).
- Arts and Humanities Citation Index. (AHCI)
An ISI citation databases of bibliographic information indexed to be searched by subject, author, journal, and/or author address. It can also be searched for articles that cite a known author or work. Cited reference searching allows use of a given work as if it were a subject term, to identify more recent articles on the same topic. Very useful for locating book reviews. Coverage begins with 1988.
- HAPI, Hispanic American periodicals index.
Contains authoritative, worldwide information about Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean basin, the United States-Mexico border region and Hispanics in the United States. From analyses of current political, economic, and social issues to unique coverage of Latin American arts and letters, HAPI Online contains complete bibliographic citations to articles, book reviews, documents, original literary works and other materials appearing in more than 400 key social science and humanities journals published throughout the world. Coverage begins in 1970.
Print Reference Sources:
- Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives, Works, Sources, edited by Linda Cullum. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Olin Ref PS153.M56 C66 2004+
Contains personal and professional information on 75 American poets, including their major works, thematic concerns, and selected bibliographies of secondary sources. A list of poets by ethnicity is provided.
- Gale Encyclopedia of Multicultural America.2nd ed. 3 vols. Contributing editor, Robert von Dassanowsky ; edited by Jeffrey Lehman. Detroit : Gale Group, 1999. Uris Ref E 184 A1 G14x 1999 An alphabetically arranged compendium of relatively substantive, signed articles on nearly 150 ethnic and cultural populations residing in the United States. Each provides an overview of the group's history in its native country; its immigration and settlement patterns in the U.S.; its traditions, customs, beliefs, language, religion, political heritage, and social dynamics. Brief bibliographies, as well as addresses of relevant organizations, media outlets and research centers, are included. Illustrated and indexed. Contents: v. 1. Acadians-Garifuna Americans, v. 2. Georgian Americans-Ojibwa, v. 3. Oneidas-Yupiat.
- The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, c2005. 5 vols. Olin Ref PS153.M56 G74 2005+
"Included are more than 1100 alphabetically arranged entries by more than 300 scholars. While most of the entries are on individual writers, others cover seminal works, ethnic stereotypes, literary genres, the writings of particular ethnic groups, places that are prominent in ethnic histories, major historical events, key pieces of legislation affecting ethnic populations, and various other topics that form the social context surrounding multiethnic American literature." - publisher.
- Multicultural Writers Since 1945: an A-to-Z Guide, edited by Albe Amoia and Bettina L. Knapp. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Olin Ref PN452 M88 2004 +
The end of World War II led to increased interest in multicultural concerns and a flourishing of literary and artistic endeavors...[and] was also a time of decolonization and the emergence of new nations and cultures clamoring for recognition and respect. The political circumstances following World War II exposed many people to other cultures. This reference discusses the experiences of writers active since 1945 who were shaped by cultures other than their own. Includes bibliographical references (p. -561) and index. (Publisher's description)
- New Immigrant Literatures in the United States. A Sourcebook to Our Multicultural Literary Heritage. Knippling, Alpana Sharma, ed., Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. (Olin Ref PS 153 M56 N53 1996)
Presents a critical introduction to post-World War II immigrant literatures of the United States, including work by Asian-American, Caribbean-American, European-American, and Mexican-American writers. Sections provide a literary-cultural histories for each group, a summaries of dominant concerns of major authors, and extensive primary and secondary bibliographies. A great starting point for locating criticism on writers and literary works about which relatively little has been written.
- Peck, David R. American Ethnic Literatures: Native American, African American, Chicano/Latino, and Asian American Writers and their Backgrounds: An Annotated Bibliography. Pasadena: Salem, 1992. (Olin Ref Z1229 E87 P36 1992)
A focused yet thorough annotated bibliography of primary and secondary works related to the four groups noted in the title, including background material such as brief narrative histories. Identifies major journals in the field, and lists individual authors and their works by race/ ethnicity.
- Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults : a Bio- critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. (Olin stacks PS 374 Y57 W75x 1996)
Aims to "help scholars, teachers, and librarians choose significant texts from both the past and present, and provides guidance in approaching multicultural issues as they are discussed in fiction for young adults. Included are entries for 51 writers, some of whom have nearly been forgotten, others who are just emerging. Each entry provides biographical, critical, and bibliographical information, while a general bibliography of works on multicultural literature concludes the book." (Publisher)
- Volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, as follows. All are in Uris, Olin and Africana Reference, and text is available online via the Literature Resource Center.
- Afro American Fiction Writers After 1955 (DLB v 33, 1984)
- Afro American Poets Since 1955 (DLB v 41, 1985)
- Afro American Writers After 1955 Dramatists and Prose Writers (DLB v 38, 1985)
- Afro American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance (DLB v 50, 1986)
- Afro American Writers From the Harlem Renaissance to 1940 (DLB v 51, 1987)
- Afro American Writers, 1940 1955 (DLB v 76, 1988)
- African American Authors, 1745-1945: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Nelson, Emmanuel S., ed. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2000. Print edition: Olin Ref PS153 N5 A32x 2000
Intended "to offer reliable, thorough, and up-to-date biographical, critical, and bibliographical information" on major African-American authors from the 18th to the mid-20th century. Each signed article contains a biography of the writer, an overview of major works and themes, and a consideration of the writer's critical reception. Both primary and secondary bibliographies are provided.
- African American Writers. Smith, Valerie, ed. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, c2001. 2 vols. (Olin Ref PS153 N5 A23 2001 +; also Africana Ref PS153 N5 A231 2001)
This revision of the 1991 edition provides an introduction to African American writers who have made a significant contribution to American and world letters. The articles, alphabetically arranged and written by noted scholars in the field, contain a biographical overview, a survey of the writer's principal works, and a critical assessement. Primary and secondary bibliographies are included. Volume one contains a chronology of significant events. A few topical articles (on the Black Arts Movement, Slave Narratives, and Spiritual Autobiography are also provided.
- Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975: a Guide to Information Sources. William P. French, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1979. (Uris Ref Z 1229 N39 A25; also Olin, Africana)
Really two volumes in one: section one is entitled Afro-American Poetry, 1760-1975 and section two is Afro-American Drama, 1850-1975. Both sections are divided into two parts: 1) General Studies, which contains reference works, critical studies, and anthologies or collections; 2) Individual Authors, which lists an author's books of poetry as well as biographical and critical studies. There are author, title and subject indexes at the end of this volume.
- The Afro-American Short Story: A Comprehensive, Annotated Index with Selected Commentaries. Westport: Greenwood, 1986.(Africana Ref Z 1229 N39 Y21)
Lists over 850 short stories found in collections and anthologies which were published between 1950 and 1982. This source is organized into four sections which include a list of stories in chronological order, separate author and title indexes, and a section of commentary and criticism. A brief descriptive annotation for each story is included in the author index (not the title index). The section of commentary and criticism is selective and analyzes most, but not all, 850 short stories.
- A Bibliographical Guide to African-American Women Writers.Jordan, Casper LeRoy, comp. Westport: Greenwood, 1993. (Olin Ref Z 1229 N39 J82; also Africana Ref)
Lists both primary and secondary sources for African-American women writers from the 1700's to the 1991. Genres represented include poetry, memoirs, biographies, criticism, essays, short fiction, novels, diaries, and journals. Includes listings of relevant anthologies and general works on African-American literature.
- Black American Women Novelists. An Annotated Bibliography. by Craig Werner. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1989. (Olin Ref Z 1361 N39 W49)
Provides an extensive, fully annotated list of books and articles pertaining to the study of African-American women novelists in general, an alphabetically arranged listing for individual authors, focusing on both biographical and critical resources, including scholarly articles as well as substantive book reviews in the mass media.
- Black Drama, 1850 to Present. [Chicago] : Alexander Street Press, 2001 -.
"This edition of Black Drama contains 908 plays by 171 playwrights, together with detailed, fielded information on related productions, theaters, production companies, and more. When complete, the collection will include more than 1,200 plays, of which some 20% have never been published before. The database also includes selected playbills, production photographs, and other ephemera related to the plays"--Homepage, viewed June 19, 2003.
- The Columbia Granger's Index to African-American Poetry, edited by Nicholas Frankovich and David Larzelere. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. (Olin Ref Z1229.N39 C65x 1999)
Title, first line and last line index to poems published by African American poets that appear in 70 anthologies and single-author collections. Includes both author and subject indexes.
- Peterson, Bernard L. Contemporary Black American Playwrights and their Plays : a Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index. New York : Greenwood Press, c1988. (Olin Ref PS153 N5 P48; also Uris Ref Z1229 N39 P48 and Africana Ref PS153 N5 P48)
This biographical dictionary contains information on over 700 contemporary black American playwrights, as well as screenwriters, radio and television scriptwriters, musical theater collaborators, and others connected with the creation of thetrical and dramatic works, written, produced, and/or published between 1950 and 1988. Entries are arranged alphabetically by playwright. A typical entry includes a biographical sketch and an annotated list of the playwright's dramatic work. Includes bibliography and index.
- The Handbook of African American Literature by Hazel Arnett Ervin. Gainesville : University Press of Florida, c2004. Africana Ref PS153.N5 E78 2004 & Olin Ref PS153.N5 E78 2004
"An A to Z compilation of 415 literary terms, ages, movements, periods, and cultural sources, all cross-referenced. Terms include techniques, genres, themes, forms, well-known phrases, modes of discourse, theoretical concepts, and diction from music and linguistics. Definitions provide substantive discussion and cite specific examples from the works of major critics and major and minor writers from the 1700s to the present. Up-to-date and relevant, the guide includes information from the colonial and reconstruction periods to the postmodern era and from cultural sources ranging from folk legends to hip-hop music...The book also lists awards and honors given to African American authors." - Publisher
- Asian American Drama. [Alexandria, VA]: Alexander Street Press, c2002-
This edition of Asian American Drama contains 70 plays by 17 playwrights, together with detailed, fielded information on related productions, theaters, production companies, and more. Includes full texts, selected playbills, production photographs and other ephemera related to the plays.
- Cheung, King-Kok. Asian American Literature: an Annotated Bibliography. New York : Modern Language Association of America, 1988. (Kroch Library Asia Ref Z 1229 A75 C47x 1988)
Covers writers of Asian descent living in the U.S. or Canada, and includes listings for both primary and secondary sources. Arranged by ethnicity, then by format. Name index.
- Asian American Novelists: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2000. Print edition: Uris Ref PS153.A84 A825x 2000
- Asian American Playwrights: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Miles Xian Liu. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print edition: Kroch Library Asia Ref PS338.A74 A9 2002
- Asian-American Poets: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, edited by Guiyou Huang; Emmanuel S. Nelson, advisory editor. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002. (Kroch Library Asia Ref PS153.A84 A826 2002)
- Asian American Short Story Writers: an A-to-Z Guide, edited by Guiyou Huang. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003. (Kroch Library Asia Stacks PS153.A84 A828 2003+)
- The Asian Pacific American Heritage: a Companion to Literature and Arts. Edited by George J. Leonard. New York : Garland Pub., 1999. (Kroch Library Asia Stacks PS 153 A84 A87x 1999)
"This collection of 63 original articles, written by expert contributors renowned in their specialties, has been designed to support those students, teachers, and librarians who may be unfamiliar with Asian Pacific American culture but need accessible, in-depth information on the topics that will unlock the work of contemporary Asian Pacific American writers and artists..." (Publisher)
- Volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, (Uris and Olin Reference) as follows:
- Twentieth Century American Jewish Fiction Writers (DLB v 28)
- Jewish American Women Writers : a Bio-bibliographical and Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1994. (Olin Ref PS 153 J4 J48x 1994)
Composed mainly of signed entries alphabetically arranged by writer's name, this source provides biographical information, surveys of criticism, bibliographies, and scholarly analysis for 57 nineteenth and twentieth-century novelists, poets, and dramatists. An introduction provides historical context, while a closing chapter surveys Jewish American women's autobiography. Appendices include a glossary and a supplemental bibliography. Indexed.
- Shatzky, Joel, and Michael Taub. Contemporary Jewish-American Novelists : a Bio-critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997. (Olin Ref PS 374 J6 S53 1997)
Addresses the lives and works of Jewish-American novelists whose major works were written after World War II. Alphabetically arranged by author's last name, each signed entry contains a brief biography, a survey of the author's major works and themes, an overview of the author's critical reception, and selected bibliographies of both primary and secondary sources. Indexed, with a short bibliography of supplemental readings.
- Volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography,(Uris Reference) as follows:
- Chicano Writers, First Series (DLB v 82)
- Chicano Writers, Second Series (DLB v 122)
- Chicano Writers, Third Series (DLB v 209)
- Handbook of Hispanic cultures in the United States. Literature and Art. Houston, Tex. : Arte Publico Press c1993-c1994. (Uris Ref E 184 S75 H23 v.1; also Olin stacks + E 184 S75 H23 v.1)
Part of a four-volume set, this book surveys the history and development of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Chicano, and Hispanic literatures in the U.S. Chapters also focus on topics such as the Hispanic oral tradition, Latina women writers, the literary language of Hispanics, and Latino cinema. Each chapter includes an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
- Kanellos, Nicolas. Biographical Dictionary of Hispanic Literature in the United States : the Literature of Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and other Hispanic Writers. New York: Greenwood, 1989. (Uris Ref PQ 7420.2 K16)
"Designed to make accessible to the English-language reader a literary world that, for the most part, has been articulated only in Spanish", (Preface) this is a guide to representative Hispanic writers living and writing in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Mexican American writers are excluded. Entries are divided into three sections: biography, major themes, and survey of criticism. Each entry ends with a substantial bibliography of works by and about the author. A general bibliography on Hispanic literature and an index round out the volume.
- Kanellos, Nicolas., ed. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Latino Literature. New York: Greenwood, 2008. 3 vols. (Olin Ref PS 153 H56 G74 2008+)
"Written for students and general readers, this encyclopedia surveys the vast landscape of Latino literature from the colonial era to the present. Aiming to be as broad and inclusive as possible, the encyclopedia covers all of native North American Latino literature as well as that created by authors originating in virtually every country of Spanish America and Spain. Included are more than 700 alphabetically arranged entries written by roughly 60 expert contributors." [publisher]
- Martinez, Julio A. and Francisco A. Lomeli. Chicano Literature: A Reference Guide. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985. (Olin Ref PS 153 M4 C53)
This guide provides an alphabetical arrangement of entries on major Chicano authors and important topics in the study of Chicano literature. The term "Chicano literature" is defined as the literary output of Mexican-Americans since 1848. Each author entry includes brief biographic information, a discussion of major works, a bibliography of the author's writings, and sources of criticism.
- Masterpieces of Latino Literature. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. (Uris Ref PQ 7081 A1 M41 1994)
This source includes 140 articles on classic and newly popular works of fiction and nonfiction (arranged alphabetically), and 33 general essays about the plays, short stories, poetry, and essays of major Latino writers and thinkers. Essays on specific works include plot summary, brief descriptions of major characters, and critical analysis of the work.
- Volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography,(Uris Reference) as follows:
Native American Writers of the United States (DLB v 175)
- Dictionary of Native American Literature. Edited by Andrew Wiget. New York: Garland Pub., 1994. (Olin Ref Z 1229 I52 D55)
- Native North American Literature : Biographical and Critical Information on Native Writers and Orators from the United States and Canada from Historical Times to the Present.. Janet Witalec, ed. Detroit : Gale Research, 1994. (Olin Ref + PS 508 I5 N27 1994)
Organized in two parts -- oral literature and written literature -- this volume compiles extracts from works of approximately a hundred Native American orators and writers, from Tecumseh to Louise Erdrich. Each entry also quotes from contemporary reviews and criticism on the author's work. An excellent source in particular for contemporary authors. Includes biographical sketches, brief essays evaluating each author's work, and some bibliography. Several useful indexes analyze the contents by tribe and genre. There is also a title index of works mentioned.
- Juricek, Kay. Contemporary Native American Authors: a Biographical Dictionary. Golden, Colo : North American Press, 1997. (Olin Ref PS153.I52 J87x 1997)
Alphabetically arranged; each entry notes tribal affiliation, selected publications, birth date, and short biography. Includes a bibliography on contemporary Native American writing.
- Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. American Indian Literatures : an Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography. New York, NY : Modern Language Association of America, 1990. (Olin Ref Z1229 I52 R94)
- Whitson, Kathy J.Native American Literatures : an Encyclopedia of Works, Characters, Authors, and Themes. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c1999. Uris Ref PS 153 I52 W47x 1999
Provides basic information about the authors, works, and themes integral to Native American letters, emphasizing the many different native American cultures that influence this diverse body of ethnic literature. Most entries cover literature written during the 20th century. Illustrated. Cross-referenced.
- The Italian American Heritage : a Companion to Literature and Arts, edited by Pellegrino D'Acierno. New York : Garland Pub., 1999. (Olin stacks E 184 I8 I675x 1999)
Though not a reference book in the standard dictionary or encyclopedic form, this collection of essays by 27 scholars is "designed to serve as a reference work documenting the history of Italian American culture and as a critical project dedicated to the analysis of Italian American identity." (Back cover). Essays survey such subjects as Italian-American literary history, Italian-American novelists and poets, Italian-American women writers, Italian-American film, and the evolution of Italian-American autobiography. Most articles include selected bibliographies. Appendices provide a chronology of the Italian-American experience from 1492-1998, and a glossary of relevant Italian terms.
- Ward, Robert E. A Bio-Bibliography of German-American Writers, 1670-1970. White Plains, NY: Kraus, 1985. (Olin Ref Z1229 G3 W26)
Contains brief biographical entries on more than 3,000 authors, poets, dramatists and other writers of German-American background. Each entry provides a list of writings by the listed author as well as some secondary references. Introductory sections list anthologies in which German-American creative literature can be found, and survey periodicals that popularized German-American literature. A selective bibliography is appended.
Revised and updated, 4/22/10
Send changes to Fred Muratori