Being Ethnic, Becoming American: Struggles, Successes, Symbols

We all know the image of melting-pot America—the land of the free and home of the brave that welcomes persons of all heritages to hitch their wagons to the stars and stripes. We all are part of it. The very food we eat, clothes we wear, homes and neighborhoods we live in, family life and traditions all mark as as Americans—and as something else. For in addition to being Americans, we also are very separate groups of peoples, made different by our ethnic heritages by what we or our families were before.

Understanding these differences and examining them through literature can bring an awareness of ourselves and an appreciation of those Americans whose ethnic values are not the same as our own.

The books in "Being Ethnic, Becoming American" represent the literature of five ethnic groups in America: Hispanic, Black, Jewish, American Indian, and Chinese. The readings are not intended to be definitive, but they do offer insights into the nature of each group and wrestle with the crucial issue of now one reconciles being an American while retaining an ethnic identity.

Book List

Program Brochure

The humanities scholar’s essay was developed by Huel D. Perkins and Alan Moores. Dr. Perkins is Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. He was formerly Deputy Director, Division of Education Programs, National Endowment for the Humanities, Mr. Moores was Materials Development Coordinator, Let’s Talk About It.

Download the scholar’s essay, annotated book list, and supplementary texts (PDF). 

 Please note: The American Library Association is the copyright owner of this essay and annotations. The credit lines embedded in the program materials and/or sponsor and funder logos must remain on all published (print and web) materials derived from these materials.

How-To Discussion Programming Guides

Developed to aid participants in “The Millennium Project for Public Libraries,” this how-to guide (PDF) provides basic information about developing and promoting book discussion programs.

When planning a “Let’s Talk About It” program, you may wish to consult the planner’s manual (PDF) for general how-to information about program format, selecting a scholar, promoting your series, evaluation, and more.