Yolanda Padilla deposited Felix beyond the Closet: Sexuality, Masculinity, and Relations of Power in Arturo Islas’s The Rain God in the group LLC 20th- and 21st-Century Latin American on MLA Commons 6 years, 2 months ago
This essay examines the uneasy relationship that Arturo Islas’s The Rain God has had with narratives of identity, focusing on how the representation of Felix’s sexuality makes him a problematic figure for certain strains of Chicana/o and queer studies. In other writings, Islas criticizes Quinto Sol, the chief publishing house of Chicano literature in the 1970s, for its emphasis on ethnonationalist novels that featured “positive images” of Chicanos, and he suggests that Quinto Sol rejected The Rain God for failing to conform to this mold. I speculate that the simple fact that the novel includes homosexual characters would have been enough for it to be deemed too negative in that era. I argue that Islas’s representations of homosexuality continue to disrupt notions of identity, but now the disjuncture is not that homosexuals are represented but that they are incoherent with the closet paradigm that is predominant in significant strains of queer studies. Drawing on recent scholarship that warns against a fixation on identity as the grounding principle for sexual experience and politics, I read Felix as a character whose transgressive expressions of homosexuality are shaped by a tangled web of power dynamics that are associated with his feelings of ethnic and masculine insecurity. Ultimately, I show that the very qualities that make Felix discomfiting to readers and resistant to narratives of identity are generative points of analysis for Chicano literary studies.