As we conclude the HPPR Radio Readers Fall 2016 Read, I’m gratified for each challenging and meaningful discussion about the changing faces of, well, the faces of our communities.
Over the past months, we’ve been talking about Cather’s My Antonia, a classic American novel focusing on European immigrants – Swedes, Russians, Bohemians—and the various ways they were welcomed, or not, into established communities of the Nebraskan plains, some 100 years ago. Cather’s inclusion of musician D’Arnault might remind readers that the challenges of traveling while black has historical references. Cather’s naming a town Black Hawk memorializes – and thereby reminds us of – the absence of First Nations, those for whom the Great Plains had been home. And many of us recognize that parts of the High Plains, once Mexico, have historic diversity. But for the most part, the general whiteness of the late 19th century world depicted in My Antonia is historically accurate.
By the late 20th century, however, meat-packing plants located throughout the High Plains and created jobs that attracted, first Vietnamese and Laotians from southeast Asia, then new immigration from Mexico, Central America, and, most recently, Africa. All this fairly recent and significant diversification has generated change, if only in the ways that we describe our communities. Some of us, in reading Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey and Egger’s What is the What, have discovered brave new insights to the struggles and sacrifices endured by today’s immigrants, who are also our new neighbors.
As our Fall read concludes, HPPR Radio Readers will gather for a special on-air discussion of the ideas and challenges presented by these books over the past few months. I hope you’ll tune in, on Sunday, November 13, from 6-8pm for a live discussion and sharing of stories and experiences of borders and becoming on the High Plains, and what it all means for our futures together.
For HPPR, I’m Jane Holwerda from Dodge City, Kansas.