Battling the ‘Bots

Not a video game.

This is a busy time for me. Yeah, yeah, Annemarie, I hear you say. We’re all busy. And I’m sure you are. But right now I’ve got three huge piles of grading nagging at me, job application deadlines and revisions to an article on Betita Martinez that need to be done.

So what has sucked up 6 hours since Friday? Trying to find a way to deal with spam traffic on this domain.

Mostly I don’t think a lot about spam. In fact, thanks to the ease of using WordPress and the general greatness of my host, Laughing Squid (how can you not want to host with a place called Laughing Squid?), I don’t think much about my multi domain install. It does what I need it to do, which is let me set up blogs for my classes and accounts for my students and then we do our thing. Askimet does its thing and, when I think about it, I empty the spam and delete the crap that hasn’t already been filtered.

I didn’t think I was in an arms race. I didn’t notice my numbers creeping up across all my archived course blogs. Then on Friday afternoon I got an email from the Squid help desk saying that since my domain was using close to three times the allowed “compute cycles” my hosting plan allows that they were moving me up to the more expensive plan. But even that wasn’t going to be enough. In addition to Mega Squid hosting, I was going to need two tacked on packages.

What? I was out cafe writing when I got the email, but when I got home (after Squid help hours) I spent an hour trying to figure out what the hell was going on. For starters, I didn’t even know what a compute cycle was. I’m still a bit blurry, but whatever they are I’m using lots. Were Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman blogging about the Chicana/o Gothic? What the hell?

As I was trying to figure out what was going on with the traffic across my sites, I unthinkingly deleted the filtered spam, noticing with half my mind that the emptying was taking a little longer than usual.

P got home and I showed him the mail. We looked at the control panel stats. Compared them with his domain. According to the numbers, I was using a 30 times more cycles than him. So I went back again to look at my stats. As I did, I noticed that each blog already had more than 100 spam comments since they’d been emptied an hour earlier. I mentioned this to P.

P is a web programmer. Among his many jobs, he battles comment spam on his university department’s websites. At his advice I started looking closer at my spam numbers. Just because the spam wasn’t getting through didn’t mean it wasn’t causing havoc to my page loads. The deeper we looked, and without more detailed information from Squid, the more it looked like this was the problem.

So I closed comments on all the blogs and put a “moderated” message up so that searching ‘bots might see the moderated warning and not bother trying my site. But the thing is, I don’t want the comments to be closed. Not at all. One of the reasons for archiving my students blogging, especially in Chicana/o and Latina/o studies is that there’s so little of this on the ‘net. I want people to be able to find the content and comment on it. Just in sifting through this spam deluge I found a comment about a poet we read made by her daughter. I don’t want to eliminate those moments of contact.

My other alternatives aren’t very attractive either. I don’t want to use free wordpress.com blog sites for my classes. I like the control of knowing they’re on the domain I host and that I never have to worry about ads. I don’t want to put my classes’ work behind the Blackboard wall.

So this morning I found a plugin, Bad Behavior, that claims to block ‘bots. So far it’s working — it claims to have blocked a thousand so far across my sites. Hopefully it’s enough. Then tomorrow I’ll call the people at Squid and see if they have any more ideas.

Spammers. They’re why my blogs can’t have nice things.

Saying Goodbye to LinkedIn

This morning on yet another one of my social media spaces, a friend commented that as much as Facebook is creepy, LinkedIn is even creepier in its suggestions of people users may know or want to comment on. Her comments reminded me how annoying I find that that LinkedIn is always trying to get into my address books, making it much harder to say no than yes.

Then I started wondering, why do I even have LinkedIn?

Basically I have it because LinkedIn tricked my mother. One day I opened an email that said “Rita Perez wants to connect with you on LinkedIn.” This seemed possible or even probable. My mother works in the business community so her using LinkedIn seemed reasonable. I pictured her at her desk using the business acceptable social media time waster. It could be fun, thought me and so I opened an account.

Once I did, I realized my mother did have a LinkedIn profile, but that she didn’t use it, that it had harvested her Gmail account and emailed (or emauled) everyone in her address book. We never exchanged a word on LinkedIn, though I think we endorsed each other.

But now my account was set up. Trickles of notifications started coming in from former editing clients and students wanting to connect. I was pleased — I’m always pleased to see my former students and their endorsements were like little pats on the back, especially when they endorsed me for skills I didn’t know I had. Too, it was great to see what they were doing in their own careers.

Mostly though, I ignored it in favor of my other networks, especially Twitter. Except as LinkedIn kept trying to get into my address book. No means no means let me ask you again. And again.

As of today, LinkedIn has asked me questions for the last time. That account is closed. My address book is safe.

Safe-ish.

MLA 14 – Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology

mla2014-logoThis was a good morning.  I was surprised and very pleased to find out that my paper for MLA14, “Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology” was accepted for inclusion in the Chicana and Chicano Literature Division ¿Anthologizing Latinidad? panel and that the roundtable special- session “Back Up Your Work: Conceptualizing Writing Support for Graduate Students,” which I’m on with Liana Silva, Abigail Scheg, Lee Ann Glowsenski and Tara Betts, was also accepted.

The abstract for my talk:

“Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology”

Readers see the authorial decisions as definitive while editorship remains invisible. Within a text, editors are seen, to the extent they are seen at all, as serving a generally administrative or organizational role. Yet in reality editors act as facilitators, filters and / or gatekeepers — albeit sometimes uncomfortable ones — deciding who and what is included and excluded, encouraging writing that otherwise might never be published or even written. By making these decisions, they decide whose thoughts merit inclusion, which ones belong and which do not, controlling how and if a subject or author will be presented. Still further, editors decide through which point of view or lens an artistic, social or political movement will be viewed. Discussing the role of editor, Norton editor Alane Salierno Mason, wrote “[e]diting a literary anthology is like forming a social club — you get to decide who are ‘your’ kind of people.” This paper focuses on anthologies as textual communities made up by women of color — especially Latinas. Although Latinas contributed to anthologies of Latino and feminist writings in the 1970s, beginning (largely) in the 1980s, Latinas became anthology editors. In their editorial role they facilitated other Latinas and women of color as writers to engage in intellectual discourse and be distributed on a larger scale than permitted by earlier underground newspapers and journals.

The two anthologies I focus on are Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s edited anthology, This Bridge Called My Back (1981) and the Chicana studies anthology Chicana Voices: Intersections of Class, Race and Gender, (1986) edited by Teresa Córdova, Norma Cantú, Gilberto Cardenas, Juan García and Christine M. Sierra. Both books have publication histories that are themselves acts of resistance, reflecting how the books were constructed as well as how each has been presented, received and used. Though examining these anthologies, a sense of the construction of textual communities and the creation of anthologies as acts of resistance is discussed.

When our roundtable proposal is put online I’ll put a link to it here.

Hey! I’m Not a Basket Case and I Don’t Regret My Ph.D.

Disclosure: I finished my Ph.D, in English in 2011.  Since then I’ve worked as a freelance editor, writing consultant and adjunct.  

There have been a number of articles lately in Slate and The Chronicle (and elsewhere) expressing regret for the time spent getting a Ph.D., feelings of failure, warnings to others not to go and generally expressing what, to me, reads like a great deal of entitled exhausted (?) angst.  In response, Emory Ph.D. student Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote an excellent blog post on reasons why students of color should look at getting a Ph.D. and the power said degree has in helping one make their way through a white world.

Yes, finishing my dissertation and getting my Ph.D. were the hardest things I’ve ever done.  Yes, there were bad times, including moments when I was sick, out of money and (the worst) faced with racism on the part of my fellow graduate students who openly expressed their suspicions that I hadn’t gotten where I was on merit but  was a product of affirmative action (which, whatever my merits, I am). But getting to work on my Ph.D., becoming the first in my family to be called “doctor” was and is the greatest privilege of my fortunate life. I got to spend a decade studying literature, mostly Chicana/o literature, which continues to inspire me to tears at its beauty. Along the way I got to teach, advise and edit undergraduate and graduate students. I got to do all this while my sister worked cleaning houses, serving food, doing retail and generally working at whatever she could to get by without health insurance or any security, asking me to recommend books she could read for thirty minutes or so before she goes asleep.

At the same time, I also found a community of Latina scholars, including my dissertation advisor, who have heard and understood my pain, especially the pain of feeling alienated from my mostly all white department, who have told me I’m good enough, who have supported my scholarship whatever my affiliation or lack thereof.  There is a history in Chicana/o scholarship of research being done be people in a variety of positions — there aren’t generations of Chicana full professors at research universities.  We’ve always struggled from the margins. Important work is and has been done by librarians, grammar and high school teachers, administrative support people and community activists. I’m not ashamed I’m not in a tenure line position — those before me weren’t necessarily either.

Yes, part of me reads these articles and understands. The job market / adjunct situation is bad. Rejection sucks. Uncertainty is hard. But nothing is ever certain. My family is proud of the adjuncting work I do, proud of the editing work I do, proud of me. They wouldn’t understand (or care) about the difference between a tenured and untenured position. To them all employment is uncertain, all work has dignity.

I wonder if some of what gives me strength and makes me see struggle for the beauty and gift that it is, are the very writings I study.  Whether it’s the passion and life-long activism of Betita Martinez or the raw celebration of life and pain of Gloria Anzáldua, Chicana writing is about feeding one’s soul in order to then go out and do what can and should be done.

As Ella Diaz remarked when I expressed surprise at the number and tone of the articles out there, perhaps we should create a reading list of the works that keep us sane, that sustain our souls and share them with those who feel their degree wasn’t worthwhile.  I think what it comes down to for me is I believe the work I do on the literature I work on is important and valuable. I will do it however I can for as long as I can as hard as I can.

Because when I see Latina/o scholars I think we’re beautiful.

 

CSRC Virtual Boxes Proposal

Image of archive from wikipedia photos.

Image of archive from wikipedia photos.

This is a sketch of a proposed project I’m working on with Lizette Gurerra.

Inspiration: This project draws inspiration from several sources.  One classic archival assignment is to bring students of history or cultural studies into the archive, randomly assign them a box and ask them to write an essay or construct a historical narrative based on the materials.  At the same time, there is also a tradition of archivist traveling to classrooms and bringing with them a “trunk” of materials for students to handle and examine.

Project Summary:  The purpose of this project is to facilitate the construction of  narratives,  making use of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center archive materials through the creation of virtual boxes that can be explored by educators, students, scholars and community members.  The narratives created by the “box” users would ultimately become part of the archive and the boxes’ history.

Project Rationale The ability to work with archival materials in order to research and construct historical narratives has previously been limited to those with the privilege of accessing  the archive in person.  These institutions rarely are the same ones designated as “Hispanic serving.” This project would allow educators, students (6-12 as well as college and university students) and community members to  have the powerful experience of opening an archive box and working with the original materials.

How would it work:  Boxes should be able to both be randomly assigned by teachers and / or users so as to create a sense of surprise and adventure, especially in a classroom situation.  Yet there should also be the ability to request a box on a specific topic so as to make archival materials accessible to community members and students.

Box topic ideas: For this project our focus will be on the Southern California Chicano Movement of the 1960s – 70s.  Specifically:

  • Blowouts
  • Moratorium
  • Creation of MEChA
  • Race and gender
  • Arts and popular culture (murals, music?)
  • LGBT (Cyclona)
  • Chicano Park
  • Labor (UFW, Justice for Janitors, Francisa Flores, Regeneracion)
  • Literature (Manazar Gamboa)

Questions: What platform could we use to build and maintain this site? Thinking about Omeka, but that’s mainly because I heard about it at THATCamp MLA and was fascinated by it.  Ideas for cool names for the project.  Possibility for users to add their own narratives (and materials) to the site.

Other questions and issues we haven’t even thought of yet.  Please let us know what you think.

¡Ban This!: An Evening of Mass Education

About a year ago, frustration over the banning of Chicana/o writings by the state of Arizona, and the hate of all things Latino that seemed to be spreading across the country became a topic of conversation on Twitter and in essays written by some of us for Aztlán Reads. This might have been the end of it were it not for the energy and organization of Santino Rivera of Broken Sword Publications.  Santino put out a call for writing, welcoming both poetry and prose and encouraging all of us to contribute.  We brought the call to NACCS, making an appeal for Chicana/o scholars to contribute.

I have to admit, even at this point, I didn’t think the anthology would happen.  There’s so much to publishing and editing and I’ve seen too many projects die from the complications of life intervening.  I did send a contribution — something theoretical on the mythology of Aztlán.  I don’t think it was what Santino was imagining, but he wrote me back encouraging me to expand the autobiographical section of my essay.  I happily did so, watching via Twitter as Santino edited the collection, got artwork for the cover and, sooner than I could have imagined, announced that the anthology was going to press.

As exciting as it was to get my copy and read through the diverse contributions, what Art Meza has organized for tonight at Cypress Park Library is even more exciting.  Tonight a number of us will do readings from the anthology and sign copies of the book for the public.

I’m nervous, but can’t wait.

 

Teaching at LMU – Fall 2012

Sorry this blog has been so neglected. There’s been a lot of blogging going on over on my Chicana Feminisms course blog. I had the intention of blogging here weekly about the experience of teaching this class, but well, clearly that didn’t happen.

I’ve definitely enjoyed teaching at LMU — the students have been great and the Chicana/o studies department is wonderfully supportive. So I’m excited to say I’m going to be teaching two courses in the fall. One class is going to look at Latino Los Angeles through its depictions in popular culture. The other is a class on Latina coming of age narratives. More details will be coming soon, but I wanted to put this much up so it’d be clear the blog wasn’t quite dead.

Wondering About This Bridge Called My Back

In the midst of Christmas celebration, I was forwarded an email from South End Press with the subject line Imagine Your World Without South End Press asking for donations to keep the press running. If you can, donate, they need and are worthy of our help.

The plea for funds included the following paragraph

Regretfully, we don’t have to imagine a world without one of our most important movement presses; Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press shuttered in 1996.Kitchen Table was cofounded in Boston by, among others, veteran activist and movement intellectual Barbara Smith—three years after South End Press’s 1977 launch in the same city. The founding spark was a suggestion by Audre Lorde, who said to Smith, “We really need to do something about publishing.” Kitchen Table was among our first movement presses, “an activist and advocacy organization devoted to the liberation struggles of all oppressed people.” And now it’s gone, the press itself and yes, even some of its most beloved books: In 1986, they published Audre Lorde’s groundbreaking work I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities, now out of print. As is their landmark publication This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Unimaginable as it might seem, This Bridge will likely never be published again; even used copies are extremely difficult to obtain.

That last sentence leapt out at me because, getting ready to teach a course next semester on Chicana feminism, I’ve been trying to figure out ways for my students to read This Bridge. I’ve been focused on the inconvenience of having the anthology out of print right now, listening to rumors that it was about to be taken up by another press.  What I’ve felt at This Bridge being out of print was largely frustration. But when I read this email I started to imagine the world without This Bridge ever being in print again, the already rare used copies becoming ever more expensive and other women unable to have the first read experience I did.

Like so many others, I first read This Bridge Called My Back in a women’s literature class as an undergraduate.  At the time I felt isolated, as a Chicana on a mid-western college campus trying to make sense of Chicano/a literature and feminism.  This Bridge didn’t just feel like a text, it felt like a community and a safe space where, though reading the words of other women of color, I could articulate my frustrations and loneliness. It changed the way I thought about feminism, race and where and how I could fit in.  Even more, it allowed me the space to imagine myself as an intellectual, something which I’d never been able to consider myself. I read my copy over and over. The binding broke, my annotations overlapped colors (including pink highlighter) and writing styles.  Last month, as I searched for and made PDF versions of my copy, I worried about my students reading margin comments that included “YES!” “This!” and “Ha!”. While I want to convey my enthusiasm about This Bridge, I covered those over.  After all, I want them to be able to read the text and related to it on their own.

My first realization how much This Bridge meant to me, how important it was to how I saw myself and my space in the university, was during my first year of graduate school. I took a course on feminist activism — “The Personal as Political” and This Bridge was one of the assigned texts.  I was excited at the thought of discussing the anthology on a graduate level, only to  be deflated to the point of tears when the first comment was one by a second year white student that to her the book seemed “intellectually naive.”  With those two words I was silenced, feeling hot in my inability to articulate what This Bridge meant to me, its wisdom and bravery.  While I didn’t have the courage to speak out, concerned about revealing that I was intellectually naive, one of the two Asian American students in the seminar (the three of us were the only minority students in a class of 20) stood up for This Bridge and made the case for its intellectual sophistication. The white student backtracked quickly, giving me both a rush of shame for not standing up for the text, but also a lesson in the power of confronting those who would dismiss third world feminism.

On some level I’ve always felt I needed to make up for the moment I didn’t defend the book and what it meant, as though the text were a soul who could be betrayed.  I’ve spent the last decade studying the anthology as a textual community, making it the center of my dissertation.  When I read South End’s assessment that This Bridge is  likely to remain out of print I feel it like a personal loss. Thirty some years since its publication, its message about the intersection of race, gender and sexuality remains timely.  I’m not sure what can be done to keep the prediction of This Bridge from being true, what can be done to bring it back into print, but I can’t let it go gently or silently.  This book has changed countless lives and deserves to keep doing so.

 

Introduction to Latino/a Studies Syllabus

[This is my attempt at creating a Latino/a studies (well, so far mostly literature) course. Do let me know what you think. If you have any ideas for films that could be included, please say! Thanks!]

Course Description:

While Chicano/as and Latino/as have been integral to U.S. history and culture, why have they are frequently and consistently been depicted as either outsiders or foreign and how is Chicana/o and Latina/o identity negotiated? In this course we will examine Latino/a and Chicano/a cultural production and its relationship to both larger U.S. culture and other U.S. racial and ethnic groups. We will also question the development and / or existence of Latinidad — the relationship between and common culture among Latino/as in U.S. culture and how it manifests itself through cultural expressions such as literature, music, films and social media. Our readings focus on writers from various Latino/a groups.

Through readings, screenings and other multimedia sources, our goal is to use recent literary and cultural theory to understand the paradox inherent in U.S. Chicana/o and Latina/o culture. Our topics will include: migration, language, the body, gender roles, sexual orientation and identity politics in the works of authors and artists. The requirements for this class include the creation of a public blog as a course project, adding to the discussion of Latina/o literature as part of the recent project AztlanReads.com.

Required Texts

  • Michelle Habell-Pallan and Mary Romero Latino/a Popular Culture (ed.)
  • Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé
  • Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera
  • Black Artemis, Picture Me Rollin’
  • Angie Cruz, Soledad
  • Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
  • Ana Menéndez, Loving Che
  • Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams
  • Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets
  • Esmeralda Santiago, When I was Puerto Rican
  • Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

Schedule of Readings

Week 1 Defining Chicano/a and Latino/a

“Historical Contexts of Latino/a Presence in United States” Juan González “The Latino Imaginary: Dimensions of community and identity” Juan Flores

 

Week 2 Chicano Landscapes

Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima

Héctor Calderón,”Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima: A Chicano Romance of the Southwest.” Critica: A Journal of Critical Essays

 

Week 3 The Politics of Language

Esmeralda Santiago, When I was Puerto Rican

“Puerto Rican Writers in the United States, Puerto Rican Writers in Puerto Rico: A Separation Beyond Language” Barrios and Borderlands

 

Week 4 Cultural Memory

Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban

Rocío G. DavisBack to the Future: Mothers, Language, and Homes in Cristina García‟s Dreaming in Cuban.” World Literature Today

 

Week 5 Imagination and the Latino Post-modern

Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

José David Saldívar Conjectures on “Americanity” and Junot Díaz’s “Fukú Americanus” in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Global South

 

Week 6 The Mestizo Self

Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

Cherríe Moraga, “The Salt That Cures: Remembering Gloria Anzaldúa” A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000–2010

 

Week 7 Latino/a Constructions of Race

Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets

Marta Caminero-Santangelo, “Puerto Rican Negro”: Defining Race in Piri Thomas’s “Down These Mean Streets” MELUS, Vol. 29, No. 2, Summer, 2004

 

Week 8 Negotiating the American Dream

Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams

Nicole P. Marwell, On Bodega Dreams

 

Week 9 Defining Homespace

Angie Cruz, Soledad

Anne McClintock. “No Longer in a Future Heaven: Nationalism, Gender and Race.” Imperial Leather

 

Week 10 Music and Transformation

Black Artemis, Picture Me Rollin’

Gwendolyn D. Pough. “What It Do, Shorty?: Women, Hip-Hop, and a Feminist Agenda” Black Women, Gender + Families, Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 2007.

 

Week 11 Mothers and Daughters

Ana Menéndez. Loving Che

Dalia Kandiyoti. “Consuming Nostalgia: Nostalgia and the Marketplace in Cristina García and Ana Menéndez.” MELUS Vol. 31, No.1 2006.

 

Week 12 Politics, Race and Identity

Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé

Linda Martin Alcoff, “Latino Identity, Ethnicity and Race: Is Latina/o Identity a Racial Identity?” Hispanics/Latinos in the United States: Ethnicity, Race and Rights

 

Week 13 Urban Chicana/o Landscapes

Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

Eric Avila, “Suburbanizing the City Center: The Dodgers Move West.” Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight

Screening: Born in East L.A.

 

Week 14 & Week 15

Final Presentations

 

Evaluation:

Active and informed participation (20%) Come to class prepared to contribute to class discussion on the assigned readings. Since it is impossible to be an “active and informed” participant without having done the reading, you must read all assigned materials in advance of each class meeting. In addition to participating in class, you are expected to be an active commenter on the class blog. You also need to create a Twitter account and follow me and each other. I will look at Twitter comments and expect to see remarks by you at least once a week.

Reading questions and class blog (20%) To insure active class discussion and your ability to listen and contribute, you will prepare a weekly reading response approximately 250 words to a question posted about the week’s texts. These questions will be posted on the course blog and your replies will be posted there as well before each class meeting. Your response should conclude with a focused question (or questions), opening up discussion of a specific passage. Your goal with this response is to demonstrate a personal interest in and engagement with the week’s reading.

Your writing should be informal, a way of processing the texts you’ve read to generate class discussion. The other writing you do for this class may grow out of these writings.

Essay & Presentation (20%) The research paper (10-12 pages) for this course will investigate an aspect of Chicano using the works we have studied in the course. The papers must demonstrate thorough research (at least six sources outside of assigned readings), organization and focus, and correct MLA citation style and bibliography. If you are not certain of this requirement, see me the first week of the course. You will present an oral version of your paper in a 5 minute presentation to the class. The paper is due the tenth week with the presentations given the last two weeks of class.

Blog Entries (20%) You must write at least three (3) separate blog entries for the class blog, each well researched and no fewer than 500 words or a blog entry that includes a YouTube video you’ve made with a written introduction. The entries should each focus on a different one of the texts and an aspect of Latina/o literature. Blog entries must demonstrate intertextuality in relation to sources on the class blog and other online work. The first entry must appear no later than the third week of the course. You should select at least one of the entries to post at Aztlán Reads

Final exam (20%) Short identification and essay.

Reading Today: What You See in the Dark


What You See in the Dark by Manuel Muñoz is a noir thriller set in 1950s Bakersfield. The fictional story of Mexican-American Teresa Garza’s romance with and murder by Anglo Dan Watson, is set against a re-imagining of the location scouting and filming of the shocking motel scenes in Hitchcock’s Psycho.  The story itself is told in the harsh lights and darks of desert life — for whatever reason as I read and saw the story in my mind’s eye, the novel was in black and white, sunlight harsh and brilliant while the nighttime shadows were dark.

The novel has an interesting structure, counterpointing the romance of Dan and Teresa, with the location experiences Janet Leigh (referred to only as The Actress), cast as Hitchcock’s (who is only named as The Director) initial victim.  What You See in the Dark is told from multiple points of view by the story’s different characters, switching between second and third person, which has jarring quality, yet also makes it feel richer and longer.  The use of second person, naming the reader as “you” made me feel implicated in the story, at times longing to turn away and deny what was a voyeuristic point of view, watching through the windows at the local drive-in or peering at the couple through the windows of the shop:

If you had been across the street, pretending to investigate the local summer roses outside Holliday’s Flower Shop, you could have seen them through the café’s plate glass, the two sitting in a booth by the window, eating lunch. You could have seen them even if you had been inside the shop, peering from behind the window display of native Bakersfield succulents, wide-faced California sunflowers, blue flax in hanging pots.

While this is a great novel by a Chicano author, at first I wasn’t ready to call it a “Chicano novel” in quite the same way as some of the other books I’ve reviewed recently are — it seems more about the conventions of 1950s small town life as contrasted with the Hollywood / Los Angeles of the Actress.  Yet that said, the discussion on race and racial tension underpins and haunts the story. Dan’s romance with Teresa defies Bakersfield conventions (and upsets his mother Arlene) while also disrupting her own romantic trajectory with Mexican day laborer.  Because it’s told as a noir tale we’re primed for a tragic ending, yet the violence is nonetheless a shock — as a reader I hoped for a romantic end even knowing Teresa’s death was inevitable.

This is a novel of dark moments. The darkest of them, for me, was when Dan rushes home to pack to flee town after Teresa’s death (we’re never explicitly told he murdered her, but there’s literally blood on his hands) and his mother fears he’s about to run off and marry her.  Recommend book and author highly.

A fun YouTube novel preview.