All Our Names- Identity Lost
One of the major themes that stood out to me in this novel is the theme of “lost identity.” This theme is important because not only does it apply to the novel, but also used by the author to critique modern society. It applies to the novel because the main character Isaac suffers from a lost identity. He mentions in the book that
I had 13 names. Each name was from a different generation, beginning with my father and going back from him.”
In this quote Isaac is already alluding to the fact that he suffers from a lost identity because his names are just a reflection of his family not him. There is also a more explicit case in the novel when he goes to the diner with Helen, and he is served with paper plates and plastic utensils. The diner attempts to strip his identity as a person by treating Isaac like a 3rd class citizen.
On a larger scale I think the author uses this theme of “lost identity” to critique the way Westerners view black people. In America for example, we use the ‘politically correct’ term to describe all black people as African Americans. A major problem with this is not all black people in America are from Africa. Some people are from Central America or South America. As Dinaw Mengestu grew up in Illinois, he might have experienced some of that first hand. Another way to look at this theme in a more current view is how there can be a tendency for westerners to imitate some of the black culture (Miley Cyrus) through personal style, music, and dance.
I also could be completely wrong about this and somehow talked myself into this making sense. Your thoughts?