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Transnational and Transethnic Textures; or, “Intricate Interdependencies” in Sandra Cisneros’s Caramelo

Nassim Balestrini


Pages 67 - 89



The debate about transnational American Studies has been closely linked to the evolving relationship between American and Ethnic Studies. Promoters acclaim the transnational approach as offering new ways of researching identity formation in hemispheric and transcontinental contexts. Critics fear that transnational American Studies might discount the ongoing influence of national categories, and that it might obliterate the academic study of specific ethnicities and geographical regions by incorporating hitherto independent fields into an all-encompassing American Studies. In this essay, I intend to illustrate how my reading of Sandra Cisneros’s novel Caramelo benefits from negotiating insights provided by Chicano/a and transnational American Studies. Through my analysis of food and fabric as two major tropes for identity formation, I propose that Cisneros both posits mestizo/a identity as a way of transcending dualisms and antagonisms (thus following Gloria Anzaldúa’s Chicana feminist thinking), and that she expands this outlook through a transnational, transgender, and transgenerational perspective on her narrator-protagonist’s identity formation and process of becoming a writer.

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