The Marginalizing Effect of Ethnic Expectations: John Fante's 'Asian' Writings

Elisa Bordin


In this essay, I consider Italian-American writer John Fante’s ‘Asian’ writings, namely The Little Brown Brothers (1930s) and “The Dreamer” (1947), and the role these works had in defining Fante’s success alternatively as an American and an Italian American writer. The focus on ethnic consciousness, which has prevailed in ethnic studies for a long time, has, in Fante’s case, limited the analysis of his works, excluding them from broader and transethnic literary movements, contexts, and practices. Even though an ‘ethnic’ approach has been seminal to tackle Fante’s works, the focus on his italianità has also obscured other topics present in his literary work, reducing Fante’s complexity and potentiality as a writer with consequences on his place in the American literary landscape. This is what I try to prove by analyzing his ‘Asian’ writings, which show an interest outside his heritage of descent which was, however, unable to develop in the American publishing market of the time.

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