[One of the better surprises at this year's meeting of the Modern Language Association was running into Ralph Rodriguez in the audience at Marjorie Perloff's Presidential Address. An even better surprise was learning that he was there not only to hear the address, but also to accept an award. Ralph's first book of criticism, BROWN GUMSHOES: DETECTIVE FICTION AND THE SEARCH FOR CHICANA/O IDENTITY, was the winner of this year's MLA Prize in United States Latna and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies. Here's a photo of Ralph standing with Anna Everett at the close of the session. Below is the award committee's citation.]
This elegantly written book examines Chicano/a detective fiction from the 1980s through the present day. Ralph E. Rodriguez argues that these narratives, despite their status as popular culture and cultural commodities, articulate Chicano/a identities as "postnationalist" ones and in much more heterogeneous and contradictory ways than in earlier decades. Rodriguez analyzes these texts in terms of the protagonists' and authors' struggles with feminism, family, masculinity, sexuality, nationalism and United States-Mexico borderlines. Rodriguez's readings are orignal and lucid and make this book not only a pleasure to read but a central source of knowledge on detective fiction and on the Chicano/a world of the last three decades.