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America’s Next Literary Foil: Deconstructing the Orientalized Body of the Other in Miranda Kenneally’s Coming up for Air (2017)

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Abstract

The aim of this article is to examine Orientalism as a literary characterization mechanism in the contemporary American young adult sports novel Coming Up for Air (2017), written by Miranda Kenneally. The story explores the transition year of Maggie King to a swimming sports university in the United States. The analysis in this article, however, will focus on Roxy Coulter, Maggie's antagonist in the plot and rival at the pool. Owing to her exoticized and eroticized depiction, Roxy becomes a fictional figure whose analysis serves to trace the persistence of the oriental motif in the current teen book market. In juvenile literature, otherization can contribute to fostering identification with the protagonist. In this sense, I seek to demonstrate that the parallel established between its antagonist, Roxy, as a foil character who is orientalized reveals a larger nationalist, ethnocentric and gendered identification superstructure of Americanness. Resumen El objetivo de este artículo es examinar el Orientalismo como mecanismo literario de caracterización en la novela juvenil deportiva contemporánea norteamericana Coming Up for Air (2017), escrita por Miranda Kenneally. En ella se relata la transición de Maggie King a una universidad deportiva de natación en los Estados Unidos. El análisis se centrará, sin embargo, en Roxy Coulter, el personaje antagónico de Maggie. Dada su presentación como personaje exótico y erotizado, Roxy representa al personaje a través del cual se puede rastrear la presencia del motivo orientalista en la literatura actual BABEL-AFIAL, 27 (2018): 167-180 167 juvenil. En ella, el público lector busca sentirse identificado con el protagonista y la alterización del resto de personajes puede contribuir a ello. De tal manera, se tratará de demostrar que la caracterización de la antagonista como personaje contrapunto y orientalizado supone un panorama de identificación pro-estadounidense basado en una codificación nacionalista, etnocéntrica y de género.
America’s Next Literary Foil: Deconstructing the Orientalized Body
of the Other in Miranda Kenneally’s Coming up for Air (2017)
Rocío Riestra-Camacho (rocioriestra23@gmail.com)
Universidad de Oviedo
Abstract
The aim of this article is to examine Orientalism as a literary
characterization mechanism in the contemporary American young
adult sports novel Coming Up for Air (2017), written by Miranda
Kenneally. The story explores the transition year of Maggie King to a
swimming sports university in the United States. The analysis in this
article, however, will focus on Roxy Coulter, Maggie’s antagonist in
the plot and rival at the pool. Owing to her exoticized and eroticized
depiction, Roxy becomes a fictional figure whose analysis serves to
trace the persistence of the oriental motif in the current teen book
market. In juvenile literature, otherization can contribute to fostering
identification with the protagonist. In this sense, I seek to
demonstrate that the parallel established between its antagonist,
Roxy, as a foil character who is orientalized reveals a larger nationalist,
ethnocentric and gendered identification superstructure of
Americanness.
Keywords: Young adult fiction, United States, Orientalism, gender,
exoticism, body.
Resumen
El objetivo de este artículo es examinar el Orientalismo como
mecanismo literario de caracterización en la novela juvenil deportiva
contemporánea norteamericana Coming Up for Air (2017), escrita por
Miranda Kenneally. En ella se relata la transición de Maggie King a
una universidad deportiva de natación en los Estados Unidos. El
análisis se centrará, sin embargo, en Roxy Coulter, el personaje
antagónico de Maggie. Dada su presentación como personaje exótico
y erotizado, Roxy representa al personaje a través del cual se puede
rastrear la presencia del motivo orientalista en la literatura actual
BABEL-AFIAL, 27 (2018): 167-180 167
juvenil. En ella, el público lector busca sentirse identificado con el
protagonista y la alterización del resto de personajes puede contribuir
a ello. De tal manera, se tratará de demostrar que la caracterización de
la antagonista como personaje contrapunto y orientalizado supone un
panorama de identificación pro-estadounidense basado en una
codificación nacionalista, etnocéntrica y de género.
Palabras clave: Novela juvenil, Estados Unidos, Orientalismo, género,
exotismo, cuerpo.
“Race, in fact, now functions as a metaphor so necessary
to the construction of Americanness that it rivals its old
pseudo-scientific and class-informed racisms whose
dynamics we are more used to deciphering.” (Toni
Morrison, 1993:47)
INTRODUCTION
The bond that links sports and nationalism in North America is well
established (Bairner, 2001: ix) and is a reliable influential factor in
young adult sports fiction being precisely one of the leading
subgenres in the country. Together with romance, this genre
underwent a phenomenon of “over-publication” in the past year
(McLemore, 2016). Targeted at girl readers, Kenneally’s Coming Up for
Air (2017) makes transition to adulthood and identity formation its two
main focuses. The novel’s plot involves Maggie, Kenneally’s
protagonist, developing a more mature personality, which crucially
becomes reinforced when contrasted with that of her rival Roxy. In
the novel, moreover, the type of narrator is autodiegetic and reliable,
providing the audience with an immediate sense of the authority and
trustworthiness of the protagonist (Herman et al., 2010: 502). This is
also aided by the fact that the focalization employed in it is internal.
In that sense, the novel would comply with the principle identified by
Sturm and Michel in young adult fiction that “the young adults in
junior high and high school look to their reading to identify with story
characters—to see themselves in their reading—and to explore the
‘other’” (2009: 41). Similarly, if narrative plays a key role in framing
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human self-consciousness, this is particularly true for adolescents and
first person narratives which favour the creation of emphatic bonds
with the protagonist (Lissa et al., 2016: 45).
Since they appear to increase the readers’ sense of identification
with the protagonist, it becomes then necessary to explore the stark
divergences established between the two principal characters. These
differences, initially, resonate with the still acclaimed psychoanalytical
theory of adolescence transition developed by Stanley Hall. In
Adolescence (1904: 44-45), Hall proposed that adolescence signals a
transition parallel to that of the human species, where the pre-
adolescent equalizes “savagery,” or the Other, and the adolescent
comes to represent “civilization,” or the subject. In a similar vein, this
would also be in line with what Perry Nodelman (1992) proposed in
“The Other: Orientalism, Colonialism and Children’s Literature”
when he argues that “Said’s powerful descriptions of the history and
structure of Orientalism, […] often […] suggested […] parallel
insights into our most common assumptions about childhood and
children’s literature” (1992: 29). For Nodelman, the narrative
scaffolding sustaining children’s literature bears resemblance to
discourses of Orientalism in that this genre works by contrasting the
child and the adult so as to show the inherent superiority of the latter.
As applied to Coming Up for Air, my claim is that it is only through the
establishment of a foil character that Maggie comes to be seen as
civilized, i.e., adult-like, in the first place. In narrative terms, a foil is
“a character who is presented as a contrast to a second character so as
to point to or show to advantage some aspect of the second character”
(Merriam-Webster’s, 1995:423). This characterization strategy echoes
some of Edward Said’s most seminal tenets in Orientalism. Firstly, just
like the East’ was so to Europe and the States, the character that
opposes the protagonist is negatively presented as his/her antagonist:
“The Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen) childlike, ‘different’”
(Said, 1978:40). Furthermore, as a foil, Roxy is depicted as a secondary
and underdeveloped character.1Thereby, the orientalist parallel still
holds in that the eastern role acts as “a theatrical stage affixed to
Europe” (Said, 1978: 63). The resulting panorama of both of these
ways of characterizing Roxy is that Maggie’s subjectivity is positively
emphasized, similarly to how the European becomes, in Said’s words,
“rational, virtuous, mature, ‘normal’” (1978: 40).
BABEL-AFIAL, 27 (2018): 167-180 169
It can therefore be contended that young adult fiction can sustain
power structures reminiscent of colonialism. Since this contributes to
perpetuating racist attitudes in the cultural imagery of its readers, it
becomes necessary to further interrogate, with Bomer and Bomer
(2001: 29), whose interests are being served by this text. Thus, this
article will explore Roxy’s characterization, including her physical and
psychosocial traits, and will proceed to analyze how such traits,
contrasted with Maggie’s characterization, frame a more complex view
of Americanness than could be grasped in a more superficial reading.
In particular, such exploration will focus on Maggie’s exoticized
construction, made increasingly complex by adding the gender
variable. Specifically, the ambivalence with which Roxy’s sportive and
sexual characterization is presented in relation to competitiveness
becomes interesting for evaluating how athleticism is gendered in the
novel. This, in turn, complicates the ‘oppressor/oppressed’
relationships to the point that it becomes difficult to discern who is
really oppressed, in the light of Orientalism, and who is represented as
being so. Alternatively, it remains relevant to emphasize that Roxy is
a perfectly ‘white’ character, who, nevertheless, becomes exoticized
in the novel. In this respect, Celeste Lacroix establishes a difference
between “characters of colour” and those “of a foreign ethnicity”
(2004: 219). As applied to her analysis of Disney female heroines, a
character’s race is signaled by the color of her skin, while her
foreignness is marked by the attribution of a non-white ethnicity
through stereotyped clothing. With regard to Coming Up for Air, the
author’s stand on race is not explicit, as the narrative takes up the first
person from the protagonist’s perspective. Despite this, the focus of
the analysis here, actually, is on the racialized representation that
results, not on the author’s racial ideology.
ORIENTALIZED AND GENDERED CONSTRUCTIONS IN
COMING UP FOR AIR
Whiteness as the default trait in American literature has been
explored by Toni Morrison in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the
Literary Imagination (1993). In this seminal work, Morrison claimed
that situating whiteness as the default option in literary works turns
it into a universal cultural expectation. The result is that issues of ‘race’
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are left unexplored. This omission, de facto, is what is played out
equivocally in Coming Up for Air (henceforth CUFA) through the
ambivalent characterization of Roxy. The first time she is presented
to the readers she is referred to indirectly through the protagonist’s
expletive thoughts: “I walk into the boardroom and gasp when I see
the black hair with purple and pink streaks, and the diamond nose
stud. Roxy is here. Shit” (CUFA: 13). As claimed by Castellani (2015:
19), “[T]he fashioned body, with pierced ears and tattoos, is a way of
differentiating oneself from others.It is therefore the punk style
streaks and diamond stud that immediately renders her as different.
Indeed, mixing a neo-punk stylization (the streaks) with a ‘tribal’ trait
(the piercing) was something French fashion designer Gaultier
claimed to be the result of a “mashed up orientalism fascination with
Californian New Age and punk savage imagery putting into the
foreground an exotic painted body” (in Castellani 2015: 14). This
association to exoticism is made explicit in the novel the second time
she is referred to via these traits: “She has black hair with purple and
pink streaks in it, she’s tan, and her diamond nose stud makes her
appear exotic” (CUFA: 123). The nuanced physical description is
noteworthy since this second time it adds little to her characterization,
thus reinforcing her as a foil figure. On a closer reflection, furthermore,
this could be alluding to “the stereotype of the interchangeability of
Asians” (Chiu 2006: 170), namely Indians, as if readily identifiable by
the nose stud, even though she is a mainstream American. Moreover,
that she is only referred to through fragments of her physique
reproduces the fantasy of a female fragmented body which re-
enforces the subject-object binary,” or what Elizabeth Grosz calls “a
volatile body” (in Morrison 2013: 111). This exclusionary, and I would
add, veiled fragmentation diminishes the self-esteem of the character
and does not contribute significantly to her initial characterization;
hence, it emphasizes her difference.2Significantly, however, the new
information presented refers to her skin as tanned and this together
with the other two elements, crucially contributes to exacerbating her
explicit depiction as an exotic character (Lacroix, 2004: 219). The
overall result is that Roxy is purposely represented as a rebellious, and
thus dangerous, Other. Certainly, standards of desirable appearance
are determined in the young adult novel genre “by racial ideologies
that associat[e] ethnic features with negative traits” (Yi, 2015: n.p.).
The reason behind this orientalist fascination appears to be sexually-
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driven, as piercings and punk culture are associated with sexual
practices of the “marginal world” (Castellani 2015: 9-15).
It is precisely through sexuality that the discussion of Roxy
becomes especially productive for a critical reading of orientalization.
Her comportment towards male teenagers is recurrently described by
the narrator as loose: “Roxy and I join up with a group of about twenty
new athletes from across the country for a campus tour of the library,
dining hall, and classrooms. She immediately starts clinging to this
super cute lacrosse player” (CUFA: 19). Here, it is already implied that
Roxy cares more about social than academic success, which
contributes to situating her as immature, since that is a trait
characteristic of early and middle teenage hood (Harter et al., 1997:
838). A reviewer of the novel is quick to conclude that “Roxy is a text
book mean girl of the swim variety who has zero redeeming qualities
and never manages to turn any sort of corner towards decency”
(Harper 2017). In this regard, the narrator’s thoughts render Roxy as
childlike—while Maggie stays as the disregarding adult—and maybe
even animal-like, as the description echoes a mating competition
ritual: “With her arm looped around Lacrosse Boy’s elbow, Roxy
stares over at me and smirks, as if to say, I’m hotter than you, and I
know it. I ignore her and try to focus on the tour, but she keeps
laughing loudly to show off(CUFA: 19). Actually, this is one of the
main topics the novel explores as Maggie’s conundrum regarding
adulthood. She appreciates swimming professionally so deeply that
she starts feeling she has missed on other aspects of teenage hood,
such as flirting with boys and ‘fooling around’ with them. Her
ambivalent thoughts are best represented when she is thinking to
herself: “I love swimming. This is my life. I accepted it a long time
ago. But then I picture Roxy flirting with that lacrosse player. She
manages to be a champion, but still appears to take time for herself
too. I mean, she clearly knew how to flirt with that guy” (CUFA: 40).
Flirting, however, is not introduced as teenager wrongdoing in the
novel, since the protagonist herself wants to experiment with dating.
In contrast, maintaining a casual sexual life is somewhat condemned.
In reviewing the novel,Joanne Albano highlights, precisely, how
“Kenneally provides readers with a realistic model of sexual behavior
that emphasizes safe sex practices(2018, my italics). In this respect,
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Maggie is displayed as dialectically opposed to Roxy, who takes
advantage of time spent at hotels during competitions to ‘hook up’
with older boys. From this point, Maggie also decides to try casual
sex, allured by such an oriental-like promise of liberty. During a party,
she resolves to have sex for the first time and the boy ends up having
non-normative desires, such as getting spanked. Albano adds that,
here, Maggie shows signs of being “increasingly interested in sex yet
hesitant to engage in risky behavior” (2018). The ridicule with which
this scene is infused is an allusion to maintaining chaste habits.
Roxy’s attitude is reinforced as too libidinous, thus contributing to her
orientalizing depiction.3The decisive point comes with the inclusion
of several passages where Roxy is trying to flirt with Maggie’s best
friend, whom the protagonist likes. The short sentences in the
climactic scene highlight its dramatic sexual connotations: “When I go
back into the hallway, I find Levi talking to Roxy. She’s very close to
him. Smiling. Looking at his lips. She touches his hip. He doesn’t
stop her. Another minute and she could have him under the
bleachers” (CUFA: 180). In the larger picture, Roxy is presented as
attempting to steal what readers will perceive as Maggie’s rightful
boyfriend. Soon, this acquires nationalist undertones. In fact, the
friendship/romantic dilemma is explicitly presented through the
metaphor of territorial conquest. “I can’t help but cover my mouth
and let out a little cry. When he sees my reaction, Levi’s face starts
turning red. I walk up to him, grab his arm, and pull him away from
her. “Territorial, much?” she snaps” (CUFA: 181). More specifically,
nonetheless, the implied discourse resonates with that referred to
immigrants in North America and Europe. Maggie is most concerned
about her friend/boyfriend-to-be and her swimming career in Omaha
being stolen by her antagonist: “What if Roxy gets to go with Levi to
Omaha, and I’m stuck in Tennessee watching on TV?” (CUFA: 90).
That Roxy is in Maggie’s ‘country’ or territory—both romantic and
professional—has been, in turn, only allowed because she was the one
who gave Roxy the opportunity in the first place. It was Maggie who
introduced Roxy to her coach. “If it weren’t for me, she wouldn’t have
gotten the training to become one of the best swimmers in
Tennessee” (CUFA: 16). Thereby, these passages assimilate the
current rhetoric on eastern immigration in western countries, which
has reinforced chauvinistic undertones of ‘we let them enter and now
they are stealing our jobs’, and even our partners.4In this vein, Roxy’s
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parents are described as former lazy people who became a couple of
opportunists:
I asked my parents a few years ago, but they said no. It’s
too expensive, and they don’t want to get up early to
drive me to practices. […] Then one day Coach Josh
took me aside to say the Memphis Marines club swim
team had recruited Roxy away from us. Her family, who
by then understood Roxy was going places, agreed to
move three hours away to Memphis. (CUFA: 15)
In analyzing literary representations of American chauvinism, Jo
Lampert has precisely showed how post 9/11 young adult fiction tends
to establish superficial divisions between good and evil characters,
between Americans and Orientals, even though the audience is in the
end pressed to discover that “they have more in common (including
nationality) than is first believed” (2004: 8).
Another circumstance in the story which contributes to creating
this derogatory orientalist discourse about Roxy is that she bullies
Maggie as regards the swimming performance and success of boys.
The conflict is narrated always from Maggie’s perspective, owing to
the novel’s type of focalization. “What are you doing here, Maggie?”
Roxy asks. “I thought this was a session for elite swimmers.” […] I
know, right?” I say. “Considering I’m way better than you, this
session’ll probably be a waste of my time.”Levi smirks at me sideways”
(CUFA: 15). The most remarkable bullying scenes Roxy provokes,
nonetheless, are not face to face, as in this case, but digitally mediated
through technology. These give the impression that Maggie, as a
personification of her country, is under permanent surveillance, giving
the impression that the ‘eastern enemy’ could be everywhere at any
time, since Maggie never knows when and exactly from where the
pictures are taken. Furthermore, it produces the effect that the enemy
is always among ‘us’: “Jason stares down at his screen. “Uh, Maggie,
there’s a picture of you going around.” I peer over his arm at the photo.
It’s an unattractive shot of me staring at the Cal pool with my hands on
my hips and a confused look on my face. The caption reads: ‘Need
swimming lessons?’ I groan.” (CUFA: 54).5As stated, readers are always
aware of Maggie’s perspective, which gains her their favour.
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Significantly, Roxy’s inner life, which could have illustrated her reasons
for acting like that, is omitted. In psychological terms, it is considered
that bullying represents a deviation of the normal socialization and
maturity expected from a student at university (Molina et al. 2015: 7).
It has been demonstrated, on the other hand, how behind the façade
of a bully stands a host of insecurities (in Roxy’s case, performance-
based) but also poor family affective relationships (Molina et al. 2015:
9). The picture presented is, however, framing the protagonist’s best
angle and, as Maggie’s foil, Roxy’s worst:
“Can’t Roxy find anything better to do? […] “We don’t
know that it was her”, […] “That picture was taken last
week at the Cal pool, Leaves.” […] “Okay, she probably
did it”. He squeezes my shoulder. But it makes her
look bad, not you[…] “She’s trying to rile you up so
she’ll have an advantage. Don’t let her win.” (CUFA: 55)
Significantly, it is not only remarkable that Roxy is negatively
contrasted with Maggie in an explicit way, but so is the emphasis
placed on the protagonist’s justifiable need to beat her. The parallels
established between sporting and affective competition and the
language of war metaphorically invoke the idea that, if Roxy
represents the discourse of fear about eastern countries, Maggie’s
friend’s words are there to remind readers that Americanness consists
in rightfully beating the enemy.
Finally, there is a crucial scene where the orientalizing
mechanisms reviewed so far come together with the gender variable.
When a national journal publishes an article on Roxy and Levi for
their talent at the pool, Maggie’s rival becomes not only explicitly
exoticized and eroticized, but her performance as an athlete woman
is doubly dismissed through voyeurism:
Together we stare down at the front-page feature. The
picture of Roxy shows her standing next to a blue
swimming pool, but no one will even notice the
shimmering water because she’s so gorgeous. She has
black hair with purple and pink streaks in it, she’s tan,
and her diamond nose stud makes her appear exotic.
BABEL-AFIAL, 27 (2018): 167-180 175
The article mentions how she has ten thousand Twitter
followers, and how people love watching the swimming
videos and swimsuit pictures she posts. I only have
about five hundred followers, and they’re mostly people
from school and the pool. Seeing her picture next to
Levi’s cute face makes me feel sick. Coach wads up the
newspaper and tosses it in the trash can. (CUFA: 124)
At recalling words related to the field of filthiness (“sick”, “trash
can”), Roxy remains constructed as the abject oriental, beautiful to
look at, yet dangerously polluting to the elements next to her, such as
the blue and shimmering water which functions as a symbol of purity.
This is why her performance, later described in bestial terms once
again, becomes a telling of how Roxy needs to be ‘tamed’ to be a
proper American. The contrast of her graceful movements, when she
was younger, with her violent strokes when she started to compete
suggests that a masculinized style is not desirable for an American girl
athlete: “Her swift, graceful movements reminded me of a dolphin”
(CUFA: 14). “Someone splashes into the water. I turn around to see
Roxy’s aggressive freestyle racing across the pool” (CUFA: 121). Fewer
followers and a less aggressive swimming style would turn her into a
discrete and appropriate young feminine girl like Maggie. This
relationship established between a hyper-active sexuality and a hyper-
aggressive sporting style for a girl, together with the fact that she is
depicted as the ‘immigrant’ who will take Maggie’s job, makes it
ambivalent to judge how Roxy’s gendering is resolved in the novel. My
contention is that the complex juncture of her sportive, sexual and
physical performance is not only racialized but gendered, and can
eventually be read through Bhabha’s concept of mimicry: “the sign of
a double articulation; a complex strategy of reform, regulation and
discipline, which ‘appropriates’ the Other as it visualizes power.
Mimicry is also the sign of the inappropriate” (1994:86). Bhabha’s
notion of mimicry as an ambiguous site of difference production makes
it apt for a conclusive enmeshing of Roxy’s racialization and gendering
through gender and postcolonial theory. As the one trying to assimilate
both into a man athlete and a colonizer, Roxy is eventually doubly
articulated as a failed mimicker, the anti-heroine of the story. At the
most basic level, Roxy imitates an oriental style of accessorizing. Thus,
she can be claimed to be appropriating a foreign practice, as if she were
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the active side of colonization, the colonizer. Then, she is presented as
a character who imitates a male-like style as regards flirting and
sportive practices: she is depicted as aggressive in both cases (Lacroix
2004: 222). There is, therefore, ambivalence established between
approaching the performativities of the Other and the danger implied
in so doing. For Mike Hill, in After Whiteness: Unmaking an American
Majority (2004: 131), American media can at once revile race and desire
its assumed exoticism. Because avoiding ambivalence by being “girly”
and more American favours Maggie, the conclusion that readers of
Coming Up for Air would eventually reach is that mimicking
performativities that do not correspond to your ‘true’ gender and
nationality—Roxy is both a girl athlete and American—is undesirable
and even counter-patriotic. Temporarily a victim, Maggie is positioned
as the true heroine of the story, patterns which Morrison identified as
being specifically American, a motif of America’s fear of being
outcast, of failing, of powerlessness” (1993: 61).
CONCLUSIONS
Academia no longer maintains the view of young adult fiction as a
degraded subgenre and hence not worth of critical scrutiny. In fact,
the increasing interest in young adult fiction is partnered with the
appearance of academic associations, research centers and specialized
critical book series specifically dedicated to research in this genre. It
has been well established in the field that teenagers instinctively seek
and find identification in these books, especially as regards how they
perceive themselves in relation to ethnicity and gender. Thus the
importance of working their literacies through discursive analyses such
as the one this article has attempted throughout, making use of a
critical reading of orientalism, and a gender perspective. Through a
focus on an American young adult sports novel, I have intended to
demonstrate how this identification young readers look for is already
formulated for them, permeated by nationalist undertones, through
the subjectivizing and otherizing processes depicted of the
protagonists of their favourite books. Maggie, as the epitome of a
mainstream American sportive girl, plays at imitating her sexually and
athletically aggressive antagonist, and comes out well, more
ethnocentrically redeemed than ever. Meanwhile, Roxy’s ambivalent
BABEL-AFIAL, 27 (2018): 167-180 177
mimicry of oriental and masculinized performativities redefines her
as foil, exactly to spur a condemnation of her counter-patriotism. In
this light, Coming Up for Air marks the words of bell hooks when she
claimed that images of Otherness are out there “to distance us from
whiteness, so that we will return to it more intently” (1992: 372). Fear
of the Other, eventually, is what best seems to foster American
nationalism, also in young adult fiction.
NOTES
1In literary parlance, this contrast can be further explicated as that
between a flat and a round character.
2Like the veil for Arab women, nose piercing is for Indians a self-
standing signifier whose rhetoric speaks to an insistence on making
it suffice to represent an entire country of the Asian continent. It is a
metonymy of what Meyda Ygeno˘glu (1998: 42) denominates a veiled
fantasy of cultural and sexual difference, since the part is made stand
for the whole.
3As a crucial rite of passage or a ‘trip’ to adulthood, Maggie’s first
time is made to fit with the orientalist motif of sexuality associated
with liberty, epitomized by Roxy’s libidinousness. The fact speaks to
the orientalist motif of libidinousness readily associated to gay and
queer encounters (Boone 1995); in this novel such encounters are
something to try but eventually become censorable. Further, Maggie
is excused in her normative sexuality because she did not know about
the boy’s fetishes and, crucially, she did not intend to come upon
them in the first place.
4For a sociological review on immigration and cultural backlash in
western countries, see Inglehart and Norris (2016).
5Technological bullying, racism and terrorism are topics which
Victoria Flanagan explores in Technology and Identity in Young Adult
Fiction: The Posthuman Subject (2014: 138, 145).
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Rocío Riestra-Camacho
America’s Next Literary Foil
Recibido / Received: 2-4-2018 Aceptado / Accepted: 26-7-2018
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Book
Rethinking questions of identity, social agency and national affiliation, Bhabha provides a working, if controversial, theory of cultural hybridity - one that goes far beyond previous attempts by others. In The Location of Culture, he uses concepts such as mimicry, interstice, hybridity, and liminality to argue that cultural production is always most productive where it is most ambivalent. Speaking in a voice that combines intellectual ease with the belief that theory itself can contribute to practical political change, Bhabha has become one of the leading post-colonial theorists of this era.
Article
This essay theorizes an aspect of colonial discourse omitted from most critiques of orientalism by focusing on an array of Western male writers whose representations of an eroticized Arabic Orient cannot be disentangled from their imagined and real encounters abroad with male homosexuality. Suggesting that the historical possibility of sexual contact with and between Near Eastern men has often covertly underwritten the appeal of orientalism as a Western mode of perception and control, I examine three homoeroticizing strands of colonialist discourse: depictions of Egypt as a symbol of polymorphous desire, accounts of masquerading as the foreign other, and narratives of the colonial trade in boys. The contingency of Western conceptions of "homosexuality"-as identity category, sexual practice, and site of theoretical speculation-becomes apparent when they are brought into contact with the sexual epistemologies of non-Western cultures and crossed by issues of colonialism, race, nation, and class.