Ethnic Identity in Chica Lit. : Trapped between Cultural Essentialism and Ex-nomination
Abstract: This essay is dedicated to exploring how ethnic identity is represented in one of popular literature's latest additions, namely chick lit. More concretely, it approaches the subject of ex-nomination and cultural essentialization of Latino communities in the burgeoning chick lit genre, chica lit. By engaging with one of the first truly chica lit novels, namely Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’ The Dirty Girls Social Club (2003), I put forward the argument that chica lit's subservience to marketing strategy, insofar it is forced to focus on distinguishing itself from mainstream Anglo-Saxon chick lit, meant that the finer differences within the Latino community where wiped out in favour of an essentialization of Latino cultural features. Thus, although The Dirty Girls acts subversively in many ways, its main Latina characters are misrepresented as internally indistinct and their differences with the white Anglo groups are exaggerated. This effect is achieved mainly through the indication that the main characters’ life difficulties can be chiefly, if not wholly, traced to their Latino background. Furthermore, the minimization, if not outright suppression, of the role of non-Latino characters, hampers the capacity of readers to contrast the characters’ Latinidad to other, non-Latino, figures. The Latina protagonists, then, appear to move in a world which is almost exclusively Latina, where the few standalone Anglo characters are compared to each other as are the Latinos. This directly appeals to the representation of Latinidad in a seamless way across nationalities, borders, social classes, and sexualities.
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