Dorfman’s memoir points to the conflicts that distinguish identity from identity markers. These conflicts between the self and the terms used to define the self are alternatively imposed and desired, external and internal, national and transnational, material and imaginary, fixed and fluid. Identity is not only shaped by the tensions between agency and cultural politics; it is also governed by competing forces of time and space, history and nation. A carefully constructed text that tests the form of the memoir and the boundaries of bicultural identity, Dorfman’s Heading South Looking North requires a reading that moves beyond the many of the traditional critical categories used to understand ethnic, diasporic life writing.

Mc Clennen argues that there is a difference between a person’s identity and the system that brands an individual with a stereotypical identity. Dorfman’s work shows various examples of the dichotomy between his definition of self and the definition imposed upon him by outside factors. McClennen suggests pairings of attributes that contribute to the conflict between self-identification and the imposed identity caused by and outside force. Imposition indicates the existence of a force motivating a change in one’s identity to conform to society based on coercion by driving factors such as the need to use a language because it is the one predominantly used in the environment. While the person learning this new language may also have the reverse when they desire to acquire this new language as their own and proclaim their own identity by associating with the new language. Internal and external factors play a large role in the perception of the transitions an immigrant experiences when he or she is displaced from their homeland. The issue of agency is important because this determines where the allegiances of individual discussed lie. By determining these allegiances the sentiments of the work will show a side of the immigrant experience which either gives the immigrant the power to choose their actions in assimilating or shows outside forces imposing a new identity on these immigrants. Though Dorfman is said to move “beyond the many of the traditional critical categories used to understand ethnic, diasporic life writing” his work still shows the contrasts between the significant pairings McClennen points out.

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