- Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature ed. by Trevor Boffone and Cristina Herrera
Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature offers twelve essays that delve into the complex issues of identity acceptance and formation for Chicanx and Latinx young adult protagonists within literature, media, and culture who are often marginalized and discriminated against because of their social “weirdness,” race, or inability to conform to cultural norms. While scholarly work already exists on this topic for adult audiences, Boffone and Herrera’s edited collection strives to represent how cultural identity formation affects overlooked Hispanic youth.
Amanda Ellis’s chapter explores creative writing, poetry, and zines as mediums for identity formation in Isabel Quintero’s novel Gabi, A Girl in Pieces. Gabi creates zines to cope with racial disjuncture, physical appearance, and gendered embodiment, which Ellis explains “creates the ideological space to unpack contradictory feelings about embodiment and about the contradictory messages surrounding teenage personhood” (25). Gloria Anzaldua’s borderlands theory, which “theorizes the US-Mexico borderlands as both a literal space of occupation and confrontation and a metaphorical site of rupture, identity-crossing, and of course literal and figurative border crossing,” is applied in a more abstract scenario by Ellis, ultimately situating Gabi’s diary writing as the borderland space for identity confrontation instead of physical geography (6).
Lettycia Terrones’s chapter examines identity formation in Celia C. Perez’s novel The First Rule of Punk, specifically through zines and fashion. Terrones applies Marci R. McMahon’s ideas on performativity of self-fashioning explaining that the protagonist, Malu, is interested in the “nonconformist attitude of punk fashion as a site for exploring and expressing her differences, and her instinctual rejection of social norms” (33). Malu is determined to stand out through appearance and performativity, which young adult readers can relate to. Her zines serve as self-fashioning compilations, which interrogate Malu’s biracial heritage and allow her to voice perspectives on issues such as racial and economic discrimination. This essay pushes readers to question cultural and societal rules and inspires them to create their own rules to live by.
Adrianna M. Santos’s essay applies Anzaldua’s borderlands theory to examine Mexican American women’s social treatment, and multicultural content analysis to disrupt binary thinking, arguing that “access to authentic [End Page 424] narratives about their lives can support the broader concerns of social justice,” making their stories heard instead of silenced (45). Through her close reading of Gabi, Girl in Pieces and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Santos depicts writing as a tool for self-making and healing from past traumas.
Christi Cook delves into the supernatural realm of YA literature by examining identity and power dynamics within vampire narratives which create “an important bridge text in the larger conversation on race, ethnicity, gender, and hybridity” (64). Chicanx and vampire identities are compared to a liminal borderlands space, where characters confront not belonging to one identity—human/vampire, American/Mexican—but instead formulate a safe space to exist in between. Cook shows that the supernatural world “serves as a harbor during the protagonists’ crises . . . and shedding of outsider status becomes possible,” providing a motivational narrative for marginalized Chicanx teens to “survive the real world” they currently live in (72).
Domino Perez’s essay “Afuerxs and Cultural Practice in Shadowshaper and Labyrinth Lost” further explores identity in supernatural narratives with magic-wielding Latina characters, arguing that “folklore and cultural practice become sites of refusal for the protagonists” which ultimately disrupts “ideas about heroism and critique the obstacles (cultural or social) that limit these young outsiders’ access to positions of power” (74). Rather than depicting minorities as villains or “a drain on economic sources,” Perez argues that these narratives provide a positive image of Latinx characters as heroes (84).
Ella Diaz’s essay “The Art of Afro-Latina Consciousness-Raising in Shadowshaper” applies Anzaldua’s idea of “alien consciousness,” which describes the “New Mestiza” as...