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  • Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity by David J. Vázquez
  • Milagros Denis-Rosario (bio)
David J. Vázquez. Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011. 246pp. ISBN 978-0816673278, $25.00.

According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 55 million people in the US who identify themselves as “Latinos.” Although a rich scholarship has addressed the implications of this label, it remains a subject of debate. Meanwhile, a great majority of people does not know who these Latinos are. As a result of the experiences of this growing segment of the US population, Latino Studies as a discipline has evolved, offering different perspectives on these experiences, and addressing issues pertaining to the causes of Latino immigration, settlement patterns, community building, and identity. Latino literature, by establishing itself as a genre, has also contributed significantly to this scholarship.

There are many ways in which a story can be written and analyzed. In his fascinating book, David J. Vázquez does an excellent job of mapping the trends that are found in some Latino narratives. He outlines clearly his main thesis in the introductory chapter by explaining thoroughly the book’s title, Triangulations. As the author indicates, “the navigational technique of triangulation offers a metaphor for better understanding how a Latino/a author “negotiates complex identities” (3).

The book’s title caught my attention because it reminded me of a telenovela plot, in which usually there is a struggle between the rich and the poor, and a devilish character who makes life miserable for everyone until the end of the last episode, when he/she makes retribution. Additionally, in these soap operas the villain of the story and the main characters are involved in a love triangle. For what is a telenovela without a love triangle? In contrast, the theme of Triangulations is about the characters created by Latino writers whose narrative voices reflect the dynamics and tribulations that Latinos endure in a not-so-inclusive society.

Vázquez begins his study with the premise that the authors relied on “first-person personal narratives to imagine completely different spaces of belonging” (6). The book focuses on narrative styles such as testimonios and political autobiographies employed by influential Latino/a writers. The study also draws attention to the analysis of narrative voice as it depicts the different circumstances and experiences that shaped each community. To illustrate his thesis, Vázquez makes a balanced selection among what can be called national enclaves within the Latino geographical landscape: Chicanos, NuyoRicans, and Dominicans.

Latin@ narrative embodies the experiences of individuals who in varied ways are challenged by issues of adaptation, acceptance, discrimination, and [End Page 418] identity. The first chapter of Triangulations insightfully describes aspects of these experiences. Vázquez establishes that the narratives of Chicano writer Ernesto Galarza and Puerto Rican activist Jesús Colón “constitute implicit dialogues between individuals, communities and ideas across time and spaces” (32). He contends that these two writers use their narrative voices to communicate with members of the community and advocate for political change. Through the main character and first person narrative of his novel Barrio Boy, for example, Galarza engages the reader in aspects related to migration, settlement, and struggles within the Chicano community. Indeed, the history of Mexican-Americans is filtered through this narrative voice.

Parallel to this example are the writings of Jesús Colón. His vignettes titled A Puerto Rican in New York and other Sketches differ slightly from a novel, yet the reader can follow the “main character.” Colón’s technique of the “observer/commentator” personage establishes a unique way to enchant readers. Colón’s contribution to this “testimonial/autobiographical” trend is evident in his “blending” of the first person narrative voice within the descriptive tale. Thus he emerges as a writer with “multifaceted subjectivity.” In other words, Colón’s personal views inform and frame his descriptions of the experiences of Puerto Ricans in New York City. His alternate uses of the “I” help determine the level of subjectivity in the narrative. By describing the collective experiences of their respective communities from an “I” point of view, these...