John Alba Cutler
Ends of Assimilation
The Formation of Chicano Literature
Oxford University Press 2015
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Latino StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network June 26, 2016 David-James Gonzales
In Ends of Assimilation: The Formation of Chicano Literature (Oxford University Press, 2015), John Alba Cutler provides a literary history of Chicano/a literature that tracks the fields formation and evolution from the 1960s forward. The central focus of the book examines the tension between the theories posited by scholars of assimilation sociology and Chicano/a writers whose literary works, focusing on the Mexican American experience, have advanced rival interpretations of the process of assimilation and immigrant incorporation into American society. Whereas the founders of assimilation sociology (Robert Park and Ernest Burgess among others) characterized American culture as homogenously Anglo-Saxon and presumed assimilation was a desirable and natural social process, Cutler shows how Chicano/a literary works have depicted culture as dynamic, multi-faceted, and uncircumscribed by static notions of authenticity or national unity. More than mere anti-assimilationist, Cutler argues that Chicano/a literary works elucidate the productive disjuncture between Chicano/a literature and the sociology of assimilation. Thus, Chicano/a literature is not merely an attempt at cultural resistance or preservation, it is a mode of cultural production as well as cultural representation rooted in the lived experience of racialization. Cutler is also adept at critiquing the evolution of assimilation sociology by illuminating the literary devices (metaphor and allusion) and cultural assumptions/blind spots (race, gender, and sexuality) that undergird attempts to define and describe a scientific process. Indeed, this lends a mystical or spectral quality to if/how assimilation occurs, who desires it, and if/how it can be measured. By illuminating how the two genres of assimilation sociology and Chicano/a literature have intersected and evolved over the latter half of the twentieth-century, Ends of Assimilation makes a significant contribution to both disciplines, while highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of the field of Latino/a studies.
David-James Gonzales (DJ) is a Doctoral Candidate in History at the University of Southern California. He is a historian of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Civil Rights, and Latino Identity & Politics. DJs dissertation examines the influence of Mexican American civic engagement and political activism on the metropolitan development of Orange County, CA from 1930 to 1965.