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Social and Imaginary Space in Writings by Chicanas
Of interest to informed readers responsive to combined textual and cultural approaches to Chicano/a literature and literature in general, Battleground and Crossroads weaves in various critical and theoretical threads to inquire into the relationship between intimate and public spaces in Chicana literature. Without claiming the borderlands as exclusive of the Chicana/o imagination, this book acknowledges the importance of this metaphor for bringing to view a more intercultural United States, allowing it to become inflected with the particularity of each text. The analyses of Chicana fiction, drama, and autobiography explore the construction of identity through the representation of social space and the transformation of literary space. For discussion of a diacritical territory this volume draws on a interdisciplinary practice that facilitates the journey from the most intimate spaces to the most public spaces of modernity, so that the aesthetic text yields its knowledge of the contingent historical circumstances of its production in material and existential terms. The apparent regionalism and localism of this literature is nothing but a reflection of the relationship between the local and the global, the private and the public, the personal and the political, the aesthetic and the ideological, the subversive and the mainstream. Each text stands by itself while it also reaches out to the sociopolitical imaginary for interpretation through an interdisciplinary methodology that is indispensable to do justice to a politicized aesthetics.

Abstract

Tim Z. Hernandez’s Mañana Means Heaven is a critical rewriting of a biographical episode in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road featuring the relationship between Sal Paradise and a Mexican girl, Terry. Based on documentary research and on his interviews with Bea Franco after Hernandez tracked her down alive in Fresno in 2010, the novel appeals to truth by referring to real people, places, and facts occurring during the two weeks that Bea Franco spent with Kerouac “on the road” in Los Angeles, and in the agricultural towns of Bakersfield and Selma in the San Joaquín Valley. The story also deals with Franco’s trip to Denver in which she tried to locate Jack some months after his departure. Both as a counternarrative of Kerouac’s version of the story, as a road narrative (Brigham), and as a counter romance narrative (Illouz 1997, 1998, 2012), Mañana Means Heaven focuses on the difficulties of incorporating and relating to difference and contrasts with the ideal of an inclusive, heterogeneous America embodied by the experience of Sal Paradise in Kerouac’s novel. The novel is built on both the silence of the literary character of Terry and on the historical silence of Bea Franco who, as Hernandez reveals in a closing narrative frame, denied ever having met or ever welcomed or hosted Kerouac in her hometown. Led by the imperative to respect Franco’s memory and that “memory belongs to the rememberer,” Hernandez negotiates extensive research, documentary evidence, and the writers’ interpretation to construct Franco’s hypothetical memory of that episode and reveal the ensuing emotional dilemmas and development of a young migrant woman of Mexican origin. Told from the perspective of Bea Franco, the story reveals the gender, class, and cultural conditions that restrict the protagonist’s access to the masculine realm of relative freedom and privilege of Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac, as well as the gender norms and social prejudices that make it difficult for Jack to be hosted as a migrant worker. Drawing on Ann Brigham’s considerations on the road narrative as a genre where the self seeks to reinvent himself through mobility by engaging with other places, regions, and identity, I will approach the road as a “contact zone” (Pratt) where one’s status of guest, host, or stranger is related to one’s position or one’s understanding of self in relation to place, identity, and culture. The understanding of the road and mobility itself also play a role in the understanding of hospitality, as they may be associated to the transgression and overcoming of boundaries, or to the presence of boundaries and the difficulty of incorporation. In the corresponding episode in Kerouac’s work, hospitality is at the expense of the misrepresentation of the other and serves the reinvention of the male character (Brigham, 61). Contrarily, in Hernandez’s work, class, racial, and gender boundaries challenge narratives of love, geographical imaginaries, and myths of social mobility, and draw attention to the difficulties of hosting and welcoming the Other. Given the social and gender rift between Jack and Bea that Mañana Means Heaven illustrates, Franco’s silence may be read as the “emotional residue” of the crude, painful fact that theirs is a story of failed hospitality.

In: The Poetics and Politics of Hospitality in U.S. Literature and Culture