Identity & racism in Maya Angelou & Nissim Ezekiel
A Shafee Ahmed Khan
The legacy and heritage of leading African-American poet Maya Angelou and Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel to the English literature is unquestionable as they have contributed a lot of literary works in the form of poems, critical essays and plays. Their works have problems of discriminations based on identity and race in their countries. They portray, reveal and expose the true image, impression of this discrimination, prejudice, unfairness and intolerance in their works. The subordination based on class, caste, gender, race, language and culture has become the unsolvable problems of the world. The subaltern theme has become so prominent in all walks of life of the modern world. The subaltern literature reflects various themes such as oppression, marginalization, gender, discrimination, subjugation of lower and working classes, disregarded women, neglected sections of the society, deprived classes. This paper analyses the subaltern literature based on the racial discrimination poems of Maya Angelou and Nissim Ezekiel. Maya Angelou (4th April 1928 to 28th May 2014) was born in St. Loius Missouri, U.S.A. She is considered as the famous American poet and has dealt with the issues of race and gender. She confronts the insidious effects of racism and segregation in America at a very young age. Many personal incidents of racism have shaken her life. Her displacement and racial prejudice echo the larger societal forces that displaced blacks all across the country. Her poems like ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, ‘Alone’ and ‘Still I Rise’ reflect the discriminations faced by her in the country. Nissim Ezekiel (16th December 1924 to 9th January 2004) was born in Bombay in Maharashtra in a Jewish family. He is considered as the foremost among the modern Indian English poets. He has adopted India as his mother land and wants to live here but he has to face lot of discrimination based on his Jewish origin. He has to bear the alienation, discrimination and torture in his life which is clearly presented in his poems. He indicates the prevailing feelings of religious and communal discrimination in the Indian society. He feels alienated due to his race and religion among the Hindus and Muslims. His poems ‘Latter-Day Psalms’, ‘Islands’, and ‘Background Casually’ reflect his anger and agony of this racial discriminations in his native India.