Cultural, ethnic, and racial issues in the “Super Sad True LoveStory”
The ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ depicts the challenges ofculture, race and ethnicity in a multicultural world. Shteyngartmasterpiece story brings out the dilemma that immigrant faces inforeign country with diverse cultures. In the story, Shteyngartdepicts ‘Lenny’ and his girlfriend ‘Eunice’ attempts tonavigate their own cultural, ethnic and generational identities whilethey too find themselves stereotyping others based on their ownidentities. A close review of the story shows that Shteyngart wrotethe book from his own perspective as an immigrant and that explainsthe deliberate omission of negative stereotype response. Shteyngartis a Russian Jewish immigrant but was brought up in the multiculturalAmerican society. However, this does not mean that he does not havefirst hand experience on the challenges immigrants face inmulticultural America. In this sense, Shteyngart tells the story withas perspective of ‘American immigrant’ to express major socialcultural concerns that most immigrants face in America in the 21stcentury (Shteyngart 13).
One aspect that comes out clearly in the story is the culturalidentity conflict, dialectic challenges, ethnicity and race. Inpresenting the ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ as struggle forcultural and race identity, Shteyngart wanted to express theinstitutionalized racism and ethnic segregation in social, politicaland cultural aspects. Although the American culture is regarded asthe melting pot of all races, cultures and ethnic groups, challengesof race, ethnicity and cultural stereotyping are rife. Shteyngartdepicts Lenny and his girlfriend Eunice as victims of this Americanmulticultural society that is hard to integrate into. The question ofassimilation and Americanization as the way forward towardseliminating racial, ethnic and cultural stereotype raises more debatethan answers. In part, American society is portrayed as anegalitarian society that is sensitive to all individual values,respect and dignity. It is therefore surprising that as Shteyngartput it in his satirical story ‘Super Sad True Love Story,’ theAmerican society is far from attaining ‘Americanization.’ Whenone looks the American society from outside, one feels that Americais a society where all people live on equal basis with not consciousof ethnic, race or cultural difference. However, as one reads throughthe Shteyngart ‘Super Sad True Love Story’ one cannot help butnotice the individualism, self-conceited accumulations, capitalismand high level discriminations.
In a liberal, multicultural American society one has to havesomething distinctly un-American. The American society is tornbetween the majority whites and the disintegrated minority whocomprise blacks, Latinos, Spaniards and Asians. To explain theseracial, ethnic and cultural biases in the story we are told ofSequoia who brings up the race subject. Lenny who is a son of aRussian immigrant stereotypes Latinos as ‘vaguely Hispanic’(Shteyngart 80). However, Lenney did not know about this stereotypeuntil he came across a poster showing people trying to jump in acrowded boat and the poster read “The boat is full, Amigo”(Shteyngart 77). This poster instills in Lenny the perception ofminority depiction in the world of apparatus. In this case,Shteyngart point is that despite the notion of ‘Americanization’racial, ethnic and cultural distinction are rife in America.
A surprising aspect is that racial and ethnic stereotypes arepropagated by the minorities to large extent than by the whites. Amore surprising aspect is that, minorities in America subjectthemselves ‘inferiority’ and self-hatred perception leading tomore discrimination by others. For instance, in the story Shteyngarttells us that Lenney’s parents felt that Latinos living in theirneighborhoods lived in a state of ‘Para-invisibility’ (Shteyngart123). This Para-invisibility aspect that the blacks, Latinos andother minorities are depicted by Shteyngart in the story is in myview, Shteyngart’s attempt to express futuristic verisimilitude.Reading through the story, one cannot fail to notice that Lenny’sracism abuse is stronger even in government institutions.
Another racial and ethnic aspect that comes out clearly in the storyis the racialised diminution of other minorities. For instance, Lennydescribes his girlfriend Eunice as small and even extends the sameracial commodification to Vishnu’s girlfriend name Grace.(Shteyngart 98). In this narrative, Shteyngart obviously wanted todepict the element of self-hate, egoism and possibly emotionalvulnerability that minorities face in multicultural societies. Indeedas presented in the story by Shteyngart, it is hard if not impossibleintegrating in a diverse society like America. Each minority group isself-conscientious and views other races ethnic groups as inferior asshown through Lenny’s racism even to his girlfriend (Penguin RandomHouse 2).
In a more subtle perspective, I think Shteyngart point on race,ethnic and cultural as presented in the story was aimed to show howimpossible it is to achieve the ‘melting pot’ theory. However,the integration of hyper-capitalism and technology with culturalstereotypes was meant to depict how it will be hard to get full‘assimilation.’ For instance, Shteyngart depicts an Americansociety focused more on making money for individual satisfaction. Inthis case, racism and ethnicity segregation becomes an important toolin discriminating some minorities from succeeding. In part, asindicated by Lenney’s racism, racial stereotyping among theminorities indicates how capitalism continues to separate theAmerican society. In summary, Shteyngart achieves his objective ofhighlighting the plight of modern diverse society and in particularAmerican immigrants. The overall message was that increasedtechnological use and capitalism only perpetuate race, ethnic andcultural discrimination.
Penguin Random House. “Super Sad True Love Story.” PenguinRandom House. 2015. (Online). Accessed July 23.http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/166486/super-sad-truelove-story-by-gary-shteyngart/.
Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story. New York: RandomHouse. 2010. Print.