Polish American Women: Writing Her Self
A lecture by Prof. Grażyna J. Kozaczka
November 17, 2021 at 6:30PM (PT) on ZOOM
ABOUT THE LECTURE: This talk, Polish American Women: Writing Her Self, will apply a literary lens to a discussion of identity/self of immigrant and ethnic women. What is it that women fiction writers reveal to us about their Polish American characters? What kind of immigrant or ethnic woman appears in their fiction and what do we learn about constructing ethnic and gender identity while drawing from both worlds: the old world of Polish traditions and the new world of the American present? Questions like these reside at the center of my most recent book, Writing the Polish American Woman in Postwar Ethnic Fiction, because they have been a part of my own search of identity – identity of an immigrant woman from Poland, who left her home country as an adult and had to reconstruct her self in the United States. As a literary historian, I turned to literature for answers. My lecture will sketch some of the answers I found on the pages of novels and short stories written by Polish American women authors over the last eighty plus years.
Since this lecture cannot do justice to all important Polish American writers, I will focus on three pivotal figures: Monica Krawczyk, the matriarch of Polish American literature, Leslie Pietrzyk and Karolina Waclawiak. Each of them belongs to a different generation and constructs different immigrant and ethnic women, yet all of them help us understand what it means to be a Polish American woman, how she fits with both the ethnic and the dominant culture, how she relates to the original homeland, what she values, and especially how she struggles to find empowerment at the intersection of powerful forces that limit her opportunities and restrict her freedom.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Grażyna J. Kozaczka is a Distinguished Professor of English and the Director of the All-College Honors Program at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY. She is a native of Kraków, Poland, and earned her doctoral degree in American Literature at the Jagiellonian University. Her research interests include American ethnic literature, women’s literature, literature of the Holocaust as well as traditional Polish folk dress and adornment. Her most recent book, Writing the Polish American Woman in Postwar Ethnic Fiction (Ohio University Press 2019), won two prestigious awards, the Wacław Lednicki Humanities Prize, and the Oskar Halecki Prize, which recognizes an important monograph on the Polish experience in the United States. Her articles both in English and in Polish have appeared in such journals as The Polish Review, Polish American Studies, and Studia Migracyjne. She has also published short fiction. For many years now she has been involved in the work of Polish American scholarly organizations. She served as the President of the Polish American Historical Association and currently serves as the Book Review Editor for Literature and the Arts at The Polish Review, a scholarly journal edited by the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America.