New Book: Queer Ricans, Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora

queer ricans

In Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora (2009), Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes explores cultural expressions of Puerto Rican queer migration from the Caribbean to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco, to analyze how artists have portrayed their lives and the discrimination they have faced in both Puerto Rico and the United States.

Highlighting cultural and political resistance within Puerto Rico’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender subcultures, La Fountain-Stokes pays close attention to differences of gender, historical moment, and generation, arguing that Puerto Rican queer identity changes over time and is experienced in very different ways. He traces an arc from 1960s Puerto Rico and the writings of Luis Rafael Sánchez to New York City in the 1970s and 1980s (Manuel Ramos Otero), Philadelphia and New Jersey in the 1980s and 1990s (Luz María Umpierre and Frances Negrón-Muntaner), and Chicago (Rose Troche) and San Francisco (Erika López) in the 1990s, culminating with a discussion of Arthur Avilés and Elizabeth Marrero’s recent dance-theater work in the Bronx.  Proposing a radical new conceptualization of Puerto Rican migration, this work reveals how sexuality has shaped and defined the Puerto Rican experience in the United States.

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes is assistant professor of Latina/o studies, American culture and Romance languages and literatures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

For purchasing information, see http://www.amazon.com/Queer-Ricans-Cultures-Sexualities-Diaspora/dp/0816640920/ref=pd_nr_b_10?ie=UTF8&s=books

4 thoughts on “New Book: Queer Ricans, Cultures and Sexualities in the Diaspora

  1. Larry La Fountain, in his book QUEER RICANS, states that I “clearly favor a non-Hispanic gay white American audience”. That’s speculative bullshit as I don’t go around taking my book off the hands of ANYONE. How could this pass peer review? And how is pigeonholing some authors as more Puerto Rican than others not in opposition of what the queer theory project claims to be?

  2. Aldo Alvarez takes offense at a comment I make in a footnote (page 183, note 3) of my book QUEER RICANS where I state: “Alvarez is an example of a first-generation adult migrant who does not write in Spanish, clearly favors a non-Hispanic white American audience, and does not center issues of Puerto Ricanness in his work.”

    I have written much more extensively on Alvarez and his book of short stories INTERESTING MONSTERS in my article on him in the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HISPANIC AMERICAN LITERATURE edited by Luz Elena Ramírez (New York: Facts on File, 2008: pages 13-15), where I argue the following:

    “In Alvarez’s literary universe, Latinoness is portrayed as monstrous and/or exotic; most of the Latino characters are abject in one way or another, be it through physical deformity (Rog), illness (Dean), or prejudiced temperament, as in the case of Claudia Ferrier, the Puerto Rican real estate agent in the city of Mireya [Mayagüez] who doesn’t want to help Mark and Dean purchase a home because of Dean’s health status (“Property Values”). The specific experience of Latino characters in the U.S. (what it means for them to be Latino) is never discussed in any detail (except, perhaps, metaphorically): there are no mentions of Latino communities (except in Puerto Rico); Latinos never date, befriend, or become sexually involved with other Latinos, but rather only interact with white Anglo people; and in fact, only one word of Spanish appears in the entire book, “encantados” (charmed) (93), although many characters frequently drop phrases in French and Italian. There are no mentions of Native Americans, African Americans or other people of color in the book, and the only mention of an Asian character occurs when a white Anglican shape-shifter called John assumes the body of an elderly Chinese woman (“A Small Indulgence”). In this sense, Alvarez’s work can be seen as sharing similar (elitist) aesthetics with the gay Chicano essayist Richard Rodríguez, who also privileges British and European cultural referents and is not particularly interested in working-class people of color issues. At times the book is also reminiscent of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, where the African American author chose to focus mostly on gay white American characters in Paris.
    Specific mentions of Latino/a culture and locations are mostly limited to literary references (Serge Ruiz teaches texts by Jorge Luis Borges and Carlos Fuentes) and stylistic influences (“Death by Bricolage” seems indebted to Borges’s metaliterary writing and interest in detective narratives); the gay Puerto Rican author Manuel Ramos Otero was also profoundly inspired by Borges. The one story from Interesting Monsters that takes place in Puerto Rico (“Property Values”) presents the island as a location for death, the place where Dean wishes to retire to spend his last days; people in Puerto Rico are portrayed as either supportive or violently opposed to his desires. Interestingly enough, another young writer from Mayagüez, Angel Lozada, has also portrayed that city as hostile to gays in his novel La patografía (1998). Alvarez’s very-well written stories are, for the most part, much more interested in exploring the feelings and experiences of white and assimilated Latino characters, particularly regarding issues of homosexuality, heterosexuality, and AIDS, than in exploring the specificities of Latino/a experience.”

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