Mulattas and Mestizas: Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850-2000

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In this broadly conceived exploration of how people represent identity in the Americas, Suzanne Bost argues that mixture has been central to the definition of race in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean since the nineteenth century. Her study is particularly relevant in an era that promotes mixed-race musicians, actors, sports heroes, and supermodels as icons of a "new" America. Bost challenges the popular media's notion that a new millennium has ushered in a radical transformation of American ethnicity; in fact, this paradigm of the "changing" face of America extends throughout American history.

Working from literary and historical accounts of mulattas, mestizas, and creoles, Bost analyzes a tradition, dating from the nineteenth century, of theorizing identity in terms of racial and sexual mixture. By examining racial politics in Mexico and the United States; racially mixed female characters in Anglo-American, African American, and Latina narratives; and ideas of mixture in the Caribbean, she ultimately reveals how the fascination with mixture often corresponds to racial segregation, sciences of purity, and white supremacy. The racism at the foundation of many nineteenth-century writings encourages Bost to examine more closely the subtexts of contemporary writings on the "browning" of America.

Original and ambitious in scope, Mulattas and Mestizas measures contemporary representations of mixed-race identity in the United States against the history of mixed-race identity in the Americas. It warns us to be cautious of the current, millennial celebration of mixture in popular culture and identity studies, which may, contrary to all appearances, mask persistent racism and nostalgia for purity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Intriguing and engaging. Bost draws together strands of racial, sociohistorical, and literary analysis in an effective and original fashion."--Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, Stanford University

"Utterly convincing and timely. This is a splendid and ambitious book, deftly and successfully executed."--Vera Kutzinski, Yale University

"A significant addition to the developing field of literatures of the Americas . . . a work of this kind is long overdue."--Gay Wilentz, East Carolina University

"Her study is particularly relevant in an era that promotes mixed-race musicians, actors, sports heroes and supermodels as icons of a ‘new’ America. Bost challenges the popular media’s notion that a new millennium has ushered in a radical transformation of American ethnicity."--Diverse Issues in Higher Education

"This is a brave and admirable study that attempts to address in a serious and systematic way the cultural repercussions of racial mixture.”--American Literary History

"[A] valuable analysis of texts about mixed-race ancestry . . . The author draws interesting parallels between the experiences of people who blur gender lines and people who blur color lines."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Her book is meant to challege . . . The challenge is important because, as Bost argues, bi-identities have always been a problematic part of American identity, and have, until this recent fascination with the 'changing face of America,' been marginalized."--MultiCultural Review

"Bost's ability to critique so large a range of literature on several analytical fronts is impressive, making her work enormously useful to historians of race and gender in the Americas."--Journal of Southern History

The Los Angeles Times
The author draws interesting parallels between the experiences of people who blur gender lines and people who blur color lines. "Since bi-identity refuses to choose a single identification, it challenges the idea that sexuality is a singular essence," just as biracial identity helps to break down the fictions of race. Bost wants to show how mixture can redefine American identity in empowering ways, how mulattas and mestizas escape "violent containments" by defining themselves. But she worries that current "sensational" celebrations of race mixing — "popular mixed-race confessions, supermodels and sports heroes" — will give us the false belief that "we have finally realized our ideals of equality … [and can] stop questioning … current balances of power." Her book contains eloquent testimony from writers who are not likely to stop that questioning any time soon. — Kate Manning
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820327815
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Suzanne Bost is an associate professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. She is also the author of Encarnacion: Illness and Body Politics in Chicana Feminist Literature.
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Table of Contents

1 Mulattas and mestizas 18
2 Creoles and color 88
3 The transitive bi- 130
4 Millennial mixtures 183
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