115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

(In)visibility, Space, and the Latinx Community of Los Angeles in The People of Paper 

Gabriela Almendarez, University of California, Riverside

By examining Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper alongside images of the borderland (Anzaldúa, 1987), I contend that the physical layout of the novel exemplifies the complex realities and identities of Latinx individuals living in Los Angeles. I am mindful of Carmen L. Medina’s (2006) assertion that “Among the many ideological and socio cultural realities found are the notion of the American Dream, citizenship and language, literacy and culture” (p. 74). 

Proposal: 

In “Grounded Transnationalism: Neighborhood Logics in Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper,” Cristina Rodriguez (2015) presents “a model for a ‘neighborhood geography,’ which would map out the real-world analog to the text’s fictional setting and tease out connections between place and narrative form, to demonstrate how each work’s literary choices can best be understood in reference to a specific locale” (p. 481). Rodriguez’s research points to how the choices Plascencia makes as an author are reflective of Mexican cultural inheritances and how his choices also point to current migration to exemplify both the physical form of the novel the author/character bond. In doing so, Rodriguez adds to growing scholarship surrounding the interactions individuals have with their neighborhoods in Latino and Chicano fiction. Rodriguez further elaborates that many Latino/a and Chicano/a authors prominently write about neighborhoods in their novels. Sandra Cisnero’s The House on Mango Street and Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Who are some examples of novels where neighborhoods are referenced and inhabited in detail.

Aside from Latino/a and Chicano/a identity forming from the author’s relationship to their neighborhood, identity in the Latino/a and Chicano/a community is also informed through art. In “Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibilitiy,” Tomas Ybarra-Fausto (1989) explains how rasquachismo evolved from the oppression Chicanos faced and became a movement to remind others of the hardship they endured but also served to showcase that their culture could never be appropriated and taken away. As a result, the Chicano Art Movement, also knows in Spanish as El Movimiento, represents the attempt by Mexican-American artists to create their unique identity and exemplify how their struggle in being a part of apart from their American and Mexican cultures. The art made by these artists creates a third space of identity, a linguistic and visual nepantla, where an individual does not have to be only Mexican or American but can be both. 

By examining Salvador Plascencia’s The People of Paper alongside images of the borderland (Anzaldúa, 1987), I contend that the physical layout of the novel exemplifies the complex realities and identities of Latinx individuals living in Los Angeles. I am mindful of Carmen L. Medina’s (2006) assertion that “Among the many ideological and socio cultural realities found are the notion of the American Dream, citizenship and language, literacy and culture” (p. 74). Though the experimental format in which The People of Paper is written in may be opposed, written against, and erased, the physicality and transience of the text challenges the artistic, creative, and social use of public spaces and allows the Latinx community in Los Angeles to claim a space to be heard.