May 3, 2018

Rowe ’18 Explores Transcultural Identity Formation in Youth in Award-Winning Essay

On the cusp of his graduation from Emmanuel this spring, Jonathan Rowe ’18 has earned an honorable mention in the 2018 Kingston-Mann Student Achievement Award for Excellence in Diversity/Inclusion Scholarship. Rowe was recognized at the Kinston-Mann awards ceremony at UMass Boston last month, where he was able to meet fellow honorees and learn about their research.

In his essay, "Cross-cultural Navigations in Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents and Chimamanda Adichie's Americanah," Rowe re-evaluates traditional notions of identity formation for internationally mobile children, namely refugees, immigrants, asylum-seekers, child-migrants and even wealthy expatriates. Examining both Alvarez's and Adichie's texts, Rowe explores how internationally mobile children adjust to life in adopted countries and form transcultural identities, paying special attention to how this affects their relationship with their country of origin.

Within the many texts and resources that helped drive his research, Rowe, a Writing, Editing & Publishing major, found himself able to connect with the discourse on a personal level, having developed a transcultural identity of his own.  

"Before coming to Emmanuel, I lived abroad in South Africa for nine years," Rowe said. "I completely relate, in a number of ways, to the characters in the novels that I'm analyzing, particularly in the idea of balancing different cultural identities and ensuring that the culture I grew up with is not lost in the process."  

The very early stages of Rowe's project emerged when he took a course called Short Fiction during his sophomore year. It was then that he was exposed to Junot Diaz's Drown and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, both of which were instrumental in his navigation of cross culturalism in literature. These texts, Rowe said, explored what it means to be an immigrant and what it means to search for a sense of belonging in the country in which one was born, or a country from which one is completely separate.  

After doing much of his research over the summer, Rowe finished a rough draft of this paper at the end of the fall 2017 semester, though this preceded—as many projects do—a long revision process.  

Rowe '18

"This idea started forming last spring, though it was not concrete yet," Rowe explained. "In fact, it changed a lot throughout the year. Ideas are never static; they constantly evolve."  

In addition to earning a Kingston-Mann award, Rowe will also graduate next month with Distinction in the Field of Study—an honor for Emmanuel students who complete and present a significant research project. Both the award and the presentation of this work during the College's annual Senior Distinction Day mark an important achievement for Rowe, as they both represent a summation of the project he has been cultivating independently for well over a year.  

"I'm able to finally present this work to the public after working on it for so long," said Rowe. "I think that's what I'm most satisfied about. It feels really rewarding."

Jonathan Rowe '18 with his faculty advisor Assistant Professor of English Monique-Adelle Callahan (left) and Associate Professor of English and Department Chair Matthew Elliott (right). Jonathan Rowe '18 with his faculty advisor Assistant Professor of English Monique-Adelle Callahan (left) and Associate Professor of English and Department Chair Matthew Elliott (right).

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