restricted access Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity (review)
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Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity. David J. Vázquez. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 256 pages. $75.00 cloth; $25.00 paper.

In Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity, David J. Vázquez takes up questions of identity formation, social movements, and narrative form that are central to Chicana/o and Latina/o literary studies and the turn to the spatial in Chicana/o cultural studies. The metaphor of triangulation, which maps an imaginary triangle between two known locations and a third unknown point, serves as the model by which Vázquez links notions of the self, community, and nation in order to read autobiographical Latina/o narratives. Vázquez claims that authors chart oppositional subjectivities through the relationship between individual and communal identities. Reading Latina/o texts by authors such as Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez argues that triangulation offers a model for understanding how these authors create the complexity of their own subject positions and for examining their “generative contradictions” between individual and communal identities as a way of illuminating the counter-hegemonic impulses of the texts (14). Vázquez draws on the feminist and queer Latina/o scholarship that has not only critiqued the shortcomings of cultural nationalism, but also theorized models of differential consciousness. Thus the concept of triangulation enables Vázquez to rehabilitate texts rife with misogyny, homophobia, or other oppressive discourses as he maps out a theory and method of comparative Latina/o literary study that is invested in the liberatory potential of narratives of the self and belonging.

In his introduction, Vázquez engages scholarship on the political autobiography and testimonio to frame the texts he reads as Latina/o first-person narratives. Likewise, he considers critical discourses of self, community, and nation in a discussion of nationalism and its relationship to the transnational and frames the scope of his study by considering pan-Latina/o identity as a lens through which to examine comparative racialization and coalitional politics. This, in turn, undergirds his [End Page 215] comparative method: Vázquez does not collapse cultural, historical, or ethnic specificities within a universalizing Latinidad. Instead, his insistence on the nation as a site of identity formation and his careful attention to the historical specificity of each text highlight the “occluded families of resemblance” from which “organic interethnic, interracial coalitions capable of effecting larger political changes” can emerge (22).

In Chapter One, “Zigzagging through History: Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, and the Development of Insurgent Consciousness,” Vázquez links the inclusive nationalism of the Cultural Front of the 1930s (the period of these authors’ personal development and activism) with the insurgent Chicano and Puerto Rican cultural nationalisms of the 1960s, when they were writing. This juxtaposition allows him to map out the “historical trajectories that inform cultural nationalism” and sets the stage for the next chapter, in which he reads the attempts of the urban outlaw to “clear spaces” of resistance as “important—albeit problematic—moments in the development of Latina/o oppositional consciousness” (65).

Chapter Two, “Crazy for the Nation: Piri Thomas, Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta, and The Urban Outlaw,” identifies connections between the urban gangster in Thomas’s writing and the vato loco in Acosta’s. Vázquez’s interest in these characters stems from their understanding of the “violent nature of hegemonic culture” (64). He quickly acknowledges their “repugnant” aspects and the “violence, nihilism, and internalized racism that is difficult to defend” and concurs with Latina feminist assessments of vato loco and gangster subjectivity as “premised on gender and sexual subordination” (64). Nonetheless, he pursues these figures as they represent a clearing of oppositional space that depends on a “strategic essentialism that triangulates the outsider as a potential foundation for a new social and political order” (98). However, as Vázquez asserts, their revolutionary potential is limited by their misogyny and homophobia. This limitation is taken up in the post-sixties period by the gay and feminist authors examined in Chapter Three, “Remaking the Insurgent Vision: John Rechy, Judith Ortiz Cofer...