“A Whole New Race”: Chinese Cubans and Hybrid Identities in Cristina García’s Monkey Hunting

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2011-01-14 23:04Z by Steven

“A Whole New Race”: Chinese Cubans and Hybrid Identities in Cristina García’s Monkey Hunting

Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal
Volume 7, Issues 1 & 2 (Fall 2009)
14 paragraphs
ISSN 1547-7150

Ann Marie Alfonso-Forero, Dissertation Editor
Graduate School, University of Miami

More so than its predecessors Dreaming in Cuban and The Agüero Sisters, Cristina García’s 2003 novel Monkey Hunting establishes her sense of Cubanness within the broader context of the Caribbean experience. More importantly, it seeks to create an inclusive and diverse sense of what it means to be Cuban that destabilizes the very notion of racial identification, which fails to account for the dynamic nature of identity and the importance of adopted cultural and religious traditions. What Monkey Hunting offers as an alternative is a process of identification through self-chosen cultural and religious hybridities that provides a source of agency in a time and place fraught with various forms of brutal and racialized socio-political oppression.
García, a Cuban-born novelist who has spent all but her first two years of life in the United States, addresses issues of race and identity in her previous novels, but does so in a way that makes use of themes and historical events closer to her own experience. These narratives take on Castro’s revolution, the condition of exile, and family politics and division, and are equally concerned with Cuba as they are with Cuban-American culture in the United States. Monkey Hunting surprised critics with its broader concerns and unusual subject matter. When asked during an interview in L.A. Weekly what made her choose to write about the legacy of a Chinese man in Cuba, García answered:

Monkey Hunting probably came from my first visit to a Chinese-Cuban restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, circa 1965. “You mean I get to order the black beans and the pork fried rice?” That blew my mind. Later, I got to thinking more seriously about compounded identities. My own daughter, for example, is part Cuban, Japanese and Russian Jew, with a little Guatemalan thrown in on my paternal grandmother’s side. Traditional notions of identity don’t work for her. I don’t think they work for a lot of people anymore. I wanted to explore this. (Huneven 38)

This response calls attention to García’s preoccupation with hybridity, which is evident throughout the text’s various narrative threads. Spanning over 150 years, four generations, and at least three continents, the novel concerns itself with issues of slavery, indentured servitude, colonization, the sugar plantation, and Cuba’s complex racial and political history, and presents readers with a Cuban identity that is inclusive of the Asian and African presences on the island. This paper argues that through the narrative of Chen Pan and his family, García explores the ways in which self-chosen hybridities allow for the inclusion of both Chinese and African cultures in Cuban identity and function against patriarchal Spanish colonial paradigms that tend to restrict identification along the lines of race and gender. Privileging cultural and religious hybridities over fixed racial identifications, García celebrates her characters’ ability to create fluid and dynamic identities, even if she is at moments ambiguous about the role of racial politics in their choices. Moreover, this preoccupation allows the novel to participate in Caribbean discourses surrounding race since, as Antonio Benítez-Rojo points out, “the Caribbean area… [is the] most extensive and intensive racial confluence registered by human histories” (199), and Cuba is no exception. Reading the novel as distinctly Caribbean, while also acknowledging it as a product of the Cuban-American exile community, requires that due attention be paid to issues of race and hybridity…

Read the entire article here.

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Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Media Archive, United States on 2010-03-04 04:38Z by Steven

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience

W. W. Norton & Company
August 2006
336 pages
5.5 × 8.2 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-32786-1

Edited by Chandra Prasad

With an Introduction by Rebecca Walker

With a roster of acclaimed fiction writers, Mixed shatters expectations of what it means to be multiracial.

Globally, the number of multiracial people is exploding. In 10 US states, the percentage of multiracial residents who are of school age—between 5 and 17—is at least 25 percent. In California alone, it is estimated that 15 percent of all births are multiracial or multiethnic. Despite these numbers, mixed-race people have long struggled for a distinct place on the identity map. It was only as recently as 2000 that the U.S. Census Bureau began to allow citizens to check off as many racial categories as are applicable-White, African American, Asian, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, American Indian, and Alaska Native. Previously, Americans were allowed to check off only one, leaving multiracial people invisible and unaccounted for.

Though multiracialism has recently become a popular aspect of many memoirs and novels, Mixed is the first of its kind: a fiction anthology with racial overlap as its compass. With original pieces by both established and emerging writers, Mixed explores the complexities of identity that come with being a multiracial person. Every story, crafted by authors who are themselves mixed-race, broaches multiracialism through character or theme. With contributors such as Cristina Garcia, Danzy Senna, Ruth Ozeki, Mat Johnson, Wayde Compton, Diana Abu-Jaber, Emily Raboteau, Mary Yukari Waters, and Peter Ho Davies, and an illuminating introduction by Rebecca Walker, Mixed gives narrative voice to the multiple identities of the rising generation.

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