Author Archives: melus


Several travel awards are available: the Katharine Rodier Graduate Student Travel Award, the MELUS Graduate Student Travel Award, and the MELUS President’s Contingent Faculty Travel Award. To submit a travel award application, please email your conference abstract to Amy Gore, MELUS Graduate Student Representative, at and specify the travel award(s) for which you wish to apply.

Visit also the conference website, and note that the deadline for submitting a conference abstract is November 15, 2016.

Call for Papers, MELUS 2017

The CFP for the MELUS 2017 at MIT has been issued by the organizers, and it looks terrific. Note the submission deadline: November 15, 2016. For more details, including the conference website, please visit our website (Conferences/Current Conference).

Congratulations to MELUS authors and editor!

Congratulations to Karen E.H. Skinazi and Lori Harrison-Kahan for winning the The Don D. Walker Prize this year for their MELUS essay, “Miriam Michelson’s Yellow Journalism and the Multi-Ethnic West” (2015). Congratulations also to Jaime Javier Rodríguez for winning an Honorable Mention for his MELUS essay, “El ‘Adiós Tejas’ in El Corrido Pensilvanio: Migration, Place, and Politics in South Texas” (2015). The Don D. Walker Prize is sponsored by the Western Literature Association, and is given annually to the best essay published in western American literary studies during the previous calendar year. The essays were nominated by the MELUS editor-in-chief, Gary Totten. Congratulations to all!

MELUS CFP for Special Issue, Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures

MELUS Call for Papers
Special Issue: Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures
(A commemorative special issue in honor of MELUS Emeritus Editor Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr.)

Access pdf document here: melus_ special issue_ skerrett_cfp

Guest Editors: A Yęmisi Jimoh and Angelo Robinson

Deadline for submission: 31 August 2016
Anticipated publication: 2018

With more than a decade and a half into the twenty-first century, the editors of this MELUS special issue seek scholarly papers that can contribute to a critical exploration of the significance of multiethnic literatures in the academy, the nation, and our increasingly connected world. We seek papers that examine or/and theorize US ethnic literatures through engagement with concerns and questions shaping literary study in the twenty-first century. While emphasizing scholarly perspectives informed by our contemporary times, we welcome a broad range of approaches (ranging from theoretical examinations to formal literary structures) and themes in essays covering all periods, all US ethnic literatures, and a variety of genres, including poetry, plays, ethnic travel writing, children’s literature, essay writing, neoslave narratives, short story collections, film, and relatively new genres such as the graphic novel.

This special issue will also commemorate the teaching and scholarship of Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr. in his service to MELUS as president and editor. His influence on the study of US ethnic literatures, particularly in the areas of identity politics, cultural memory, and narrative structure is immense. In celebration of these contributions and more, we seek papers that present forward-thinking approaches to societal gender imperatives, ethnicity, race, class, sexuality, culture, and immigration/citizenship.

With the above objectives in mind, we are looking for submissions that could address, yet are not limited to, these questions:

 How do twenty-first century demographics affect conversations on ethnicity and race?

 Are there new ways, informed by our twenty-first century moment, to engage literature when considering issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality?

 How has the state of ethnic literatures evolved during this century and how do our pedagogical practices reflect these changes?

 What is the landscape of gender debates in US ethnic literatures?

 How are ethnic masculinities portrayed in US ethnic literatures?

 Who are the emerging multiethnic writers in the United States and what stories are they telling or what different perspectives are they presenting in literature? Consider writers such as Daniel Black, Beth H. Piatote, Bryan Thao Worra, Debra Magpie Earling, Jade Chang, Colson Whitehead, lê thi diem thúy, Linda LeGarde Grover, Mohja Kahf, Claudia Rankine, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Evelina Zuni Lucero, Randall Kenan, Paul Beatty, and others.

 Are there new ways to engage the works of established writers such as Richard Wright, Percival Everett, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ernest Gaines, Sherman Alexie, Zora Neale Hurston, Gish Jen, Toni Cade Bambara, Leslie Marmon Silko, Chang-Rae Lee, Toni Morrison, N. Scott Momaday, Walter Mosley, Gerald Vizenor, Phillis Wheatley, Langston Hughes, Vikram Chandra, Ishmael Reed, Maxine Hong Kingston, Alice Walker, David Henry Hwang, Zitkala-Sa, August Wilson, Joy Harjo, Ralph Ellison, Mitsuye Yamada, Jhumpa Lahiri, James Baldwin, Gloria Naylor, Maria Helena Viramontes, Shawn Wong, Louise Erdrich, or other well-known writers?

 How have ethnic literary and cultural movements (Afro-futurism, Native American Renaissance, Pinto Poets, and others) progressed during the twenty-first century?

 Are there new ideas in ethnic feminisms?

 What is the role of popular fiction (mystery, romance, speculative/science fiction, urban fiction, and so forth) in the twenty-first century literary landscape?

 How are US ethnic literatures representing sexuality and the ethnic/raced body?

 How are citizenship and immigration (e.g. post-911 ethnicity in the US; racial justice; the Confederate flag in South Carolina and across the US) represented in ethnic US literatures?

 What role do cultural themes such as food, ethnic gardens, religion, art, music, or travel play in literature by ethnic writers?

 What are the new critical issues in multiethnic literary studies resulting from increased literary production by diverse voices in US ethnic literatures, including new immigrant populations that have resulted in an expanded US citizenry and a broadened ethnic literary environment?

The editors welcome theoretical examinations of these questions/topics. Submissions should be between 7,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and works cited, prepared according to the MLA Style Manual 7th edition. Please do not include the author’s name anywhere in the manuscript. Essays under review at other journals or previously published in any form will not be considered for publication in MELUS. Please also include a 250-word abstract with your submission. All submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process.

Please submit completed papers through the MELUS online manuscript system: by 31 August 2016. Also, you will need to indicate in the “custom questions” section of the online submission form that you are responding to the CFP for the special issue on Twenty-First Century Perspectives on US Ethnic Literatures. For questions about the issue, please contact Angelo Robinson ( or Yęmisi Jimoh (

Dr. Lori Harrison-Kahan, new MELUS book review editor

We welcome Dr. Lori Harrison-Kahan to the role of book review editor for MELUS and thank Dr. Catherine Fung for her three years of service in this position. Dr. Harrison-Kahan is an Associate Professor of the Practice of English at Boston College. A recipient of the American Studies Association’s Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars and Contingent Faculty, she is the author of The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary (Rutgers University Press/American Literatures Initiative, 2011), which received an honorable mention for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers Book Award. She is also the co-editor with Josh Lambert of “The Future of Jewish American Literary Studies,” a special issue of MELUS (Summer 2012). Her essays and book reviews have been published in American Jewish History, Callaloo, Cinema Journal, Jewish Social Studies, Journal of American History, Legacy, MELUS, Modern Drama, Modern Fiction Studies, Modern Language Studies, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, and The James Joyce Quarterly. Her work also appears in the anthologies Styling Texts: Dress and Fashion in Literature; Cultures of Femininity in Modern Fashion; Passing Interest: Racial Passing in U.S. Fiction, Memoirs, Television, and Film, 1990-2010; The Race and Media Reader; The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction; and the MLA’s Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Nella Larsen. Lori holds an A.B. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Columbia University. She has previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Connecticut College, and Brandeis University.

Please send books for review to the following address:

Lori Harrison-Kahan
English Department
Boston College
Stokes Hall—4th Floor, South
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467


“Doing the Charleston”: Performing Racial, Gender, Sexual, and Class Identities in Multi-ethnic American Literatures and Culture
30th Annual MELUS Conference

Call for Papers

March 3-6, 2016, Charleston, South Carolina
College of Charleston

While we invite paper abstracts, and complete panels, workshops, and roundtable proposals on a broad range of topics related to multi-ethnic American literatures of the United States, we especially encourage those that take inspiration from James P. Johnson’s “The Charleston,” the infectious 1923 jazz tune that set Broadway afire in the revue Runnin’ Wild, and became a national sensation. Johnson’s “The Charleston” is said to have been inspired by the rhythms of Charleston dockworkers, and the dance is a performative synthesis of the African juba and jay-bird. The song itself is infused with Habanera and Spanish Tinge beats that speak to its multicultural lineage. “Doing the Charleston” can extend beyond the song, dance, or geographical location connoted by its name; it can involve a performative or theatrical move that constructs and deconstructs racial, gender, sexual, and class identities.

Significantly, 40% -60% of enslaved Africans entering the United States came through the Charleston port, so Charleston served as a nightmarish Ellis Island or homeland for many Africans of the diaspora. Papers for this conference may examine how American ethnic literatures trace this historical passage, showing how the past haunts the present, much like the trace that haunts Joe Trace in Toni Morrison’s Jazz. Papers may explore the foodways of Charleston, rich with seafood, rice, and yams, and how the preparation, as well as the consumption of lowcountry food, becomes a performance of identity construction.

Papers may delve into the works of writers such as Alice Childress, Olaudah Equiano, W.E.B. DuBois, DuBose Heyward, Langston Hughes, Julie Dash, Toni Morrison, Gloria Naylor, and Josephine Humphries, all who have “done the Charleston,” enacting performances of racial, gender, sexual, and class identities in their works, sometimes with the Charleston lowcountry as a backdrop.

Multicultural Charleston History

Founded in 1670 at the base of the Ashley and Coopers Rivers, Charleston is a city with deep multicultural roots. The names of Native American tribes remain inscribed on the lowcountry landscape: Wando, Yemassee, Sewee, Kiawah, Edisto, Combahee, and Coosaw. The Charleston lowcountry is the home of the Stono and Denmark Vesey revolts.The history is inextricably linked to the environmental and agricultural landscape of the area: rice, cotton, and indigo, in particular, are elemental parts of the city’s history.

The Gullah Geechee culture of the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands is a vibrant part of Charleston’s heritage. Gullah peoples, descendants of slaves from West African countries such as Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Ghana, were able to maintain vestiges of their culture, such as the Gullah language, an amalgamation of African, French, and English languages. World renowned artist Jonathan Green celebrates this vibrant Gullah culture through his beautiful paintings.

Sephardic Jewish settlers came to Charleston from Europe in the 17th century, and a provision was made for them in the charter of the Carolinas of 1660, with emphasis on liberty of conscience for “Jews, heathens, and dissenters.” Until the 1830’s, Charleston had the biggest and wealthiest population of Jews in the North America. Today, Charleston remains the number one tourist destination in the country, largely due to the rich legacy of its multicultural peoples.

Deadline for abstracts and proposals (250 words in Microsoft Word or rich text format (rtf)): November 15, 2015. Please email proposals and abstracts to Dr. Valerie Frazier, MELUS 2016 Conference Committee Chair (

MELUS Awards 2015

The recipients of the MELUS Awards for Distinguished Contribution in Ethnic Studies and for Lifetime Achievement are Professor Bonnie TuSmith and Professor Karla FC Holloway.

Professor Karla FC Holloway will receive the MELUS Award for Distinguished Contribution in Ethnic Studies. She is the James B. Duke Professor of English at Duke University. She is a cross-disciplinary scholar also holding appointments in the School of Law, the Program in Women’s Studies, and the Department of African and African American Studies. She is an affiliated faculty with the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life and with the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities. Dr. Holloway is a member of the Greenwall Foundation’s Advisory Board in Bioethics, the Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, the Princeton University Council on the Study of Women and Gender, and was elected to the Hastings Center Fellows Association (bioethics). She also is the founding co-director of the John Hope Franklin Center and the Franklin Humanities Institute as well as a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship.

Professor Karla FC Holloway’s numerous scholarly publications include Passed On: African American Mourning Stories (2002), Private Bodies/Public Texts: Race, Gender, and Cultural Bioethics (2011), Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature (2014), and five other books. Professor Holloway’s scholarship in literary studies engages issues in biocultural studies, African American culture, as well as United States’ ethics and law. She spans the cultural landscape of the United States and locates the complex intersections of ethnicity and race, gender, science, and citizenship.

Professor Bonnie TuSmith will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Professor TuSmith joined MELUS in 1985. As a member of the Society, she co-founded the Women of Color Caucus (WOCC) in 1997 and, in 2002, she established the MELUS Action Committee for Equity in Education (ACEE). The WOCC is now a standing group in MELUS, and its members regularly organize panels at the annual conferences. Dr. TuSmith was MELUS Program Chair from 1995-1997 and was elected MELUS President in 2000, serving in that capacity from 2000-2003. As MELUS President, she spearheaded the MELUS Family Cookbook and launched a successful fundraising campaign for the Society.

Professor Bonnie TuSmith is on the faculty in the Department of English at Northeastern University. She is an award-winning scholar and the author, editor, or co-editor of five books, including All My Relatives: Community in Ethnic American Literatures (1994), Race in the College Classroom: Pedagogy and Politics (2002), and Critical Essays on John Edgar Wideman (2006). She co-edited a special issue of MELUS titled Pedagogy, Praxis, Politics, and Multiethnic Literatures (2005) and has published articles that engage a variety of topics in multiethnic literature. Her co-edited volume, Race in the College Classroom received the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award and the Critics Choice Award.

Professor TuSmith’s contributions to MELUS will be an enduring part of our legacy.

We will honor professors Holloway and TuSmith on Saturday 11 April 2015 at the MELUS Conference in Athens, Georgia.

MELUS Panels at ALA ’16 and MLA ’17

Call for Papers for Two MELUS panels for MLA 2017, January 5-8, 2017, Philadelphia, PA
Submission Deadline: March 27, 2016.

We invite colleagues to submit individual paper abstracts to the two following MELUS panels for the MLA (Modern Language Association) 2017 Convention on Jan. 5-8, 2017 in Philadelphia, PA:

1. “Ecocritical Engagements with American Multiethnic Literature”
This is a MELUS panel.
How do multiethnic literatures give shape to their narratives from an ecocritical perspective? How do ecocritical takes on multiethnic American literature inform our understanding of American literature writ large? Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. Brief abstract and 1-page CV to Christopher González ( by Mar. 27, 2016.

2. “Multiethnic Voices in Graphic Medicine”
This is a MELUS panel.
How is graphic medicine informed by multiethnic literary approaches? How do such graphic narratives grapple simultaneously with illness and ethnicity? Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome. Brief abstract and 1-page CV to Christopher González ( by Mar. 27, 2016.

In your abstract, please include your full contact information: name, rank, email, institutional affiliation, which panel you submit your abstract to, and whether you request AV equipment. All panelists must be current members of MLA and MELUS in order for the abstracts to be accepted and to present in these two MELUS panels at the MLA 2017 convention. Thank you very much.

Call for Papers for 2 MELUS panels for ALA 2016,May 26-29, 2016, San Francisco, CA

Submission Deadline: January 25, 2016.

We invite individual paper abstracts for the two following MELUS panels for ALA (American Literature Association) 2016 conference on May 26-29, 2016, in San Francisco, CA:

  1. Race and Ethnicity in Graphic Narratives. How are the motifs, tropes, and themes of race and ethnicity narrated in one or more American multiethnic (African American, Asian American, Latino/a American, Jewish American, Italian American, Arab American, American Indian, etc.) graphic novels, comics, or sequential storytelling in general? Intersectional engagements with gender, class, sexuality and culture in graphic narratives are also welcome.
  1. Ethnofuturism in American Literature. How are conceptions and representations of race and ethnicity articulated in American speculative fiction? What do such examples of Ethnofuturism reveal about race and ethnicity in the United States? How have such authors as Ruth Ozeki, Sherman Alexie, Gerald Vizenor, Junot Díaz, Simon J. Ortiz, Karen Tei Yamashita, Toni Cade Bambara, Seth Graham Jones, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany and others helped shape Ethnofuturism in the United States?

Please submit your individual paper abstract of fewer than 250 words in Microsoft Word and a 1-page CV to Prof. Christopher González, MELUS Program Chair, at by Jan. 25, 2016. In your abstract please include your full contact information: your name, rank, institutional affiliation, email, the panel to which you are submitting, and whether you request AV equipment. Due to the high cost of AV equipment, we cannot guarantee that American Literature Association will honor all AV requests. All panelists must be current members of MELUS in order to present in these two MELUS panels in ALA 2016.