The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight In Heaven .
Defining exactly what shapes ethnic identity in the United States is the hardest question I can imagine being asked. As a child born in the United States, I find this question so difficult because I have been exposed to a large variety of cultures within the small boundaries of my own family. This makes it very difficult to determine one, or even a few characteristics that define ethnic identity. In the case of many of these novels, the task of defining ethnic identity is not so complicated. The list of determinants that I believe to define ethnic identity includes language, geographic location, and tradition. Language is the most obvious determinant of ethnic identity, especially in the United States. Language barriers were particularly apparent in The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston. The main character's family in this novel was Chinese and represented the first generation of immigrants for this family. Due to the fact that the entire family spoke Chinese, they were forced to find housing in an area where it was possible to carry on a normal life without speaking English. This area turned out to be Chinatown, in San Francisco. Living in a haven geared to one culture would limit the ability of younger generations to expand past the boundaries of Chinese culture and become Americanized, which served to preserve many aspects of Chinese culture even further, and truly defining the children of Chinatown, and others in similar situations, as Chinese-Americans. Geographic location can both inhibit and expand the depth of ethnic identity. In the book that I chose to read, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie, this was the chief determinant of ethnicity. In this novel, the main character spends much of his life on an Indian Reservation. The Reservation facilitates only Indians, and each inhabitant of the Reservation seems to know what the others are thinking.