- Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora
To arrive at a nuanced understanding of culture in the United States, critics are increasingly considering how acts of migration have led to the creation of sophisticated artistic and intellectual practices. The migration of people from Puerto Rico to the United States, for instance, continues to spur myriad discussions about culture due to both the historical relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico and the cultural contributions of the migrants themselves. As critics such as Amy Kaplan and Laura Briggs have shown, the case of Puerto Rican migration speaks to numerous hotly contested issues, including the geopolitics of borders, imperialism, and the personal impact of diasporic living. These same dialogues have motivated a small number of critics to consider how U.S. Puerto Rican artists produce culture in the form of literature, media, and performances. And while this research has explored a range of phenomena, only a few thinkers have pondered the meaningful role that human sexuality plays in the shaping of migration cultures.
In the past decade, the interplay of migration and sexuality has come under the scrutiny of cultural critics such as Lionel Cantú, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, and Eithne Luibhéid. La Fountain-Stokes's newly published study, Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora, is a groundbreaking analysis of the cultural expressions produced by Puerto Rican people who self-identify in queer terms. From the start, La Fountain-Stokes foregrounds his concern about using the term queer in his study since he would prefer to use the local sexual idioms (i.e., pato), but he nonetheless employs the term queer because he seeks to expand the dialogue about sexual cultures in academic and international communities. Although some may disagree with his diction, Queer Ricans presents a nuanced analysis of Puerto Rican queer cultures through the assertion that sexuality is a major "constitutive element" (xii) in [End Page 327] the cultures of Puerto Rican migration. La Fountain-Stokes's book is significant because most scholars to date have overlooked the substantive roles of queer sexuality in contexts of exile, travel, and immigration. Queer Ricans sheds light on these processes and examines artworks of desire, which include autobiography, dance, film, performance, prose, verse, and visual arts. In this fashion, La Fountain-Stokes offers compelling analysis and his own insightful concept of "ghetto bricolage" (141)
In methodological terms, La Fountain-Stokes's book will likely be viewed as a highly integrative and interdisciplinary work inasmuch as Queer Ricans makes use of an assortment of approaches by drawing on the fields of ethnic studies, gender studies, history, third-world feminist studies, and the social sciences. Moreover, La Fountain-Stokes's work is arguably comparative to some degree insofar as Queer Ricans moves seamlessly between both English and Spanish language texts, providing the reader with eloquent and poetic translations of the original works and discourses. These integrative approaches are nicely complemented by La Fountain-Stokes's thoughtful exploration of the multiple Puerto Rican identities in the United States, such as CaliRicans, Chicago Ricans, DiaspoRicans, Nuyoricans, and Philly Ricans, among others. La Fountain-Stokes cogently explains these identities in terms of how they are shaped by class, race, region, religion, and social status.
Queer Ricans is a testament to the spectrum of Puerto Rican lived experience. This study refutes any hackneyed stereotype of cultural uniformity: for example, it is notable that the text examines works pertaining to different sexes and ethnicities, beginning with a short story titled "¡Jum!" that was written by Luis Rafael Sánchez in the early 1960s about a Puerto Rican man of African descent. La Fountain-Stokes showcases this story as an important and provocative antecedent of contemporary queer Puerto Rican culture because, like some other contemporary works, it depicts an ostensibly effeminate man who is violently attacked because of his unconventional performance of gender. Alongside this text, La Fountain-Stokes assesses the significance of pieces generated both by first-generation Puerto Ricans immigrants such as Manual Ramos...