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Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature

Explorations of Place and Belonging

Maya Socolovsky

Publication Year: 2013

This book examines the ways in which recent U.S. Latina literature challenges popular definitions of nationhood and national identity. It explores a group of feminist texts that are representative of the U.S. Latina literary boom of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, when an emerging group of writers gained prominence in mainstream and academic circles. Through close readings of select contemporary Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American works, Maya Socolovsky argues that these narratives are “remapping” the United States so that it is fully integrated within a larger, hemispheric Americas.

Looking at such concerns as nation, place, trauma, and storytelling, writers Denise Chavez, Sandra Cisneros, Esmeralda Santiago, Ana Castillo, Himilce Novas, and Judith Ortiz Cofer challenge popular views of Latino cultural “unbelonging” and make strong cases for the legitimate presence of Latinas/os within the United States. In this way, they also counter much of today’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

Imagining the U.S. as part of a broader "Americas," these writings trouble imperialist notions of nationhood, in which political borders and a long history of intervention and colonization beyond those borders have come to shape and determine the dominant culture's writing and the defining of all Latinos as "other" to the nation.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

This project has benefited from the contributions of many individuals as over the years I have worked in collegial environments that have sustained and nurtured my interests and my writing. In particular, I am grateful to Kate Flint for guiding me through my dissertation on U.S. Latina literature at Oxford University; to the late Gay Wilentz for her ...

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Introduction: Troubling America(s)

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pp. 1-28

In June 2009 the culinary magazine Gourmet ran a feature entitled “Fiesta Forever.” Shot in real time with real people—“no casting, no script, no backup food”—the spread photographed Cuban-born cook and restauranteur Maricel Presilla’s annual barbecue in Palisades Interstate Park, in Alpine, New Jersey. The event, which also promotes Presilla’s two ...

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1. Spaces of the Southwest: Dis-ease, Disease, and Healing in Denise Chavez's The Last of the Menu Girls and Face of an Angel

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pp. 29-60

One of the most striking aspects of Denise Chávez’s short-story collection The Last of the Menu Girls and novel Face of an Angel is the figuration of New Mexico’s southwestern terrain as a space of dislocation, unease, and dis-ease. Given the long history of Mexicans (and Mexican Americans) in the Southwest, one would perhaps expect a narrative of rootedness ...

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2. Mestizaje in the Midwest: Remapping National Identityin the American Heartland in Ana Castillo’s Sapogonia and Sandra Cisneros’s Caramelo

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pp. 61-93

As the introduction demonstrated, U.S. anxiety about nationhood and citizenship has long been expressed through a rhetoric of unbelonging whereby the spatial, political, and cultural separation of the United States from Latin America has often rendered Latinos/as within the United States into outsiders, no matter their place of birth or historical ...

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3. Colonization and Transgression in Puerto Rican Spaces:Judith Ortiz Cofer’s The Line of the Sun and The Meaning of Consuelo

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pp. 94-126

Unlike Mexico, Puerto Rico lacks the contiguous geographical border with and proximity to the United States, as well as the stigma of illegality, that make Mexico—and Mexicans—appear to be the most apparent threat to mainstream notions of national identity. An analysis and discussion of displacement in U.S.-Puerto Rican literature, then, cannot ...

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4. Memoirs of Resistance: Colonialism and Transnationalism in Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, Almost a Woman, and The Turkish Lover

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pp. 127-153

Esmeralda Santiago, like Judith Ortiz Cofer, writes from and about the liminal space between colonized Puerto Rican islanders and postcolonial mainlanders, uses her stories in order to return to and interrogate the space of the island, and shows how the production of narrative confounds and resists the colonial framework of the United States. Clearly, ...

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5. Tales of the Unexpected: Cuban American Narrativesof Place and Body in Himilce Novas’s Princess Papaya

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pp. 154-182

The issues of U.S-Latino citizenship and nationhood that I discussed in preceding chapters show in part how Mexican Americans and U.S. Puerto Ricans have experienced a particularly racialized dynamic of otherness and perceived foreignness. Cuban Americans, however, have not been subject to quite the same dynamic of “unbelonging,” partly because ...

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Postscript. The Illegal Aliens of American Letters: Troubling the Immigration Debate

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pp. 183-193

Halfway through Helena María Viramontes’s 1985 short story “The Cariboo Café,” the nameless Anglo-American owner of the café watches the arrest (which he has facilitated) of three undocumented Latino workers and remarks, “I don’t know. I didn’t expect handcuffs and them agents putting their hands up and down their thighs.”1 His comment exemplifies ...


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pp. 195-219


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pp. 221-237


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pp. 239-244

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About the Author

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pp. 245-245

Maya Socolovsky is an assistant professor of English and Latin American studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. She has published articles on Latino/a literature and Jewish American literature. ....

E-ISBN-13: 9780813561196
E-ISBN-10: 0813561191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813561189

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741482
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Troubling Nationhood in U.S. Latina Literature

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Hispanic American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Hispanic American women -- Intellectual life.
  • Hispanic Americans in literature.
  • Belonging (Social psychology).
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
  • National characteristics, Latin American, in literature.
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