Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Foreignness and the Other

By Helene Wecker

Foreignness and the Other

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away (i.e. the United States) everyone was an immigrant. (Except, of course, for the Native Americans, a.k.a. the people who'd done been living here and were violently driven from their land in order for this whole nation-of-immigrants schtick to really get going… But that's a conversation for a different day.) In 1899, pretty much everyone settling in New York City came from somewhere else—usually another country entirely, but sometimes just elsewhere in the United States.

All the characters in The Golem and the Jinni—not just the supernatural ones—are learning to live side-by-side with foreign cultures, and learning what it's like to be seen as foreign themselves.

Questions About Foreignness and the Other

  1. How is the New York City of 1899 different from the New York City of today? Is it more divided because of cultural differences? Explain yourself, please.
  2. Which characters help bridge the divisions between different cultures? How do they do so? Which characters remain isolated within their own neighborhoods? Why do they do this?
  3. In what ways are the Golem and the Jinni similar to all the other immigrants in the city? How are they different?

Chew on This

The Golem and the Jinni are a little extra dose of "other" because they're not just immigrants, they're supernatural.

From the other side of things, everyone is an "other" from the Golem and Jinni's perspectives because they've never dealt with humans before.