Abstract: Family Separation in Immigration Literature of the 1990s

The recent controversies over “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in the separation of children from their parents at the border, have highlighted the importance of family in the movement of people across borders. However, families negotiating the rigors of transnational migration has a much longer history, much of which has been explored in literature that emphasizes family separation. Family separation is, at times, used as a lens through which we observe maternal and paternal relationships, development of sexuality, inhabitance, and personal identity. By juxtaposing the various parental relationships in Edwidge Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, Junot Diaz’s short story compilation Drown, and Jamaica Kincaid’s novella Lucy, three literary takes on family separation, against the political backdrop 1990’s immigration politics, this thesis attempts to humanize those affected by current United States immigration policy. This thesis will explore the coping mechanisms used by characters in the novels, drawing connections between political and psychological studies and the phenomena of family separation demonstrated in the novels.