- Southwest Asia: The Transpacific Geographies of Chicana/o Literature by Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue
In her 1981 essay "La Güera" ("The White Girl"), Cherríe Moraga declares, "In this country, lesbianism is a poverty—as is being brown, as is being a woman, as is being just plain poor. The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression"1 (emphasis in original). For Moraga in the early eighties, still grappling with the ramifications of her privilege as a light-skinned Chicana and her identification as a Chicana lesbian, ranking oppression meant adhering to an either/or schema that ultimately left one with no good choices. Theories of identity, including Moraga's, have proliferated and evolved since then, but in many ways her words are as relevant now as they were in 1981.
In this compact volume, Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue avoids "ranking the oppressions" while outlining a theory of Chicana/o identity formation that departs from the Anglo/Chicano binary. Indeed, it exceeds even a multiracial or multi-Latinx framework to ask readers to consider the effects of transpacific interactions on Chicana/o texts. Throughout, Gonzales SaeSaue resists giving readers "bad" actors and "good" actors, as though matters of social justice and art production were as simple as identifying right and wrong. The catch-22 of late capitalist culture is that we are all complicit in oppression, even as we may be working to undo strands of it. Gonzales Sae-Saue's book makes this paradox clear by examining the ways that the literature of an often self-consciously anticolonialist, antiracist movement represents non-Anglo others in its artistic production.
Gonzales Sae-Saue's focus on works that take place "before, during, and after the 1970s" makes good sense (Gonzales Sae-Saue 5, emphasis in original). In the throes of the American War in Vietnam, colonialist aggression was at the forefront of the nation's awareness. The United States, specifically in the Southwest, has a long history of racism against immigrants and citizens who are from Asia or who are of Asian [End Page 134] descent. From immigration quotas to internment to ghettoization to racist caricatures in media, one may find many points of similarity across the experiences of Asian and Chicana/o populations in the US Southwest. Gonzales Sae-Saue's achievement is not only to point out this fact but to analyze the ways that Chicana/o artists deploy Asia and Asians in their work and to interpret what it means for Chicana/o racial identification if it is removed from binaries like Anglo/Chicano and even black/white.
In the first chapter, Gonzales Sae-Saue examines works by three canonical Chicana/o authors produced during the "golden age" of Chicana/o literature: Oscar Zeta Acosta's novel The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973), Luis Valdez's play Vietnam Campesino (1971), and Miguel Méndez's novel Peregrinos de Aztlán (Pilgrims in Aztlán, 1974). He argues that in their nationalist orientation, these texts flatten differences between Vietnamese revolutionaries and Chicana/os while in some cases foreclosing the possibilities of interracial alliances in the United States. In addition, they impose US American understandings of colonial resistance. In chapter 2, Gonzales Sae-Saue examines Rolando Hinojosa's Korean Love Songs (1978) and Américo Paredes's "Ichiro Kikuchi" (1948–49), works on Chicano servicemen in the Korean and SecondWorld wars. Far from integrating them in the dominant Anglo American culture of the midcentury, as military service was assumed to do, the protagonists of these works realize through their interactions with Asians that they have more in common with their supposed enemies than with their Anglo countrymen. These works set the stage for the later full-blown romantic identification with Asian revolutionaries that the Chicano movement would deploy. The fourth chapter examines Rudolfo Anaya's A Chicano in China, which explores the supposed "Asiatic" roots of Amerindians (and therefore of Chicana/os). Gonzales Sae-Saue shows how Anaya's referral to a theory...