The Lost Ones
The Lost Ones
Post-Gatekeeper Border Fictions and the Construction of Cultural Trauma
This chapter considers novels including The Guardians by Ana Castillo, Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande, and Highwire Moon by Susan Straight, which represent border crossing deaths and disappearances as a new form of cultural trauma. These novels mark a shift in U.S. border fiction by attending squarely to the traumatic effects of increased border security measures on those crossing north. The chapter follows theorists such as Jeffrey Alexander and Neil Smelser, who argue that cultural trauma is not inherent in events themselves but rather is constructed through repeated representations of particular events as fundamentalinjuries to a “people.” The chapter also argues that border fiction written in the years after Operation Gatekeeper appropriates from its Latin American context the notion of the “disappeared”—with all its connotations of state violence—to construct migrant disappearances as a cultural trauma that violently separates families and introduces profound instability into notions of individual and group identity. Such texts of border crossing, death, and “disappearance” serve as forms of testimonial fiction against U.S. immigration and border policies at home, which ignore the realities of labor needs and which have steep human costs.
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