Show and Tell: Identity as Performance in U.S. Latina/o Fiction


What makes John Rechy a Chicano writer? To be Latino, must writing have a touch of 'magical realism'? Can one talk of US Latina/o identity, considering the diversity of the Latina/o experience? Through the analysis of nine recent Latino/a novels, Karen Christian answers these and other questions, thereby adding a fresh, bold voice to the anti-essentialist debate surrounding ethnic and gender identity. Christian melds the theory of 'performativity' with the latest scholarship on ethnicity and ethnic literature to create a framework for viewing identity as a continuous process that cannot be reduced to static categories. Through their narrative 'performances', US Latina/o writers and their characters move among communities and identities in an ongoing challenge to the notion of Latina/o essence. This study is also among the first to examine trends across the spectrum of cultures represented in US Latina/o literature -- from Chicano to Cuban to Puerto Rican to Dominican. This book is essential for any serious student of Latina/o literature and identity.


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