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Conocimiento Narratives: Challenging Oppressive Epistemologies through Healing in Latina/o Children’s and Young Adult Literature


I introduce the concept of “conocimiento narratives” in my dissertation as a lens to understand Latina/o children’s and young adult literature and as a means to engage in conversations about healing in the lives of Latina/o children. I adapt Chicana feminist scholar Gloria Anzaldúa’s articulation of “conocimiento,” which she describes as the process of using knowledge for healing, in order to emphasize the different ways this literature represents the oppressions Latina/o children in the United States face and the ways those oppressions are challenged via healing processes. In the course of this dissertation, I provide analyses of realist fiction by authors such as Juan Felipe Herrera, Charles Rice-González, Rigoberto González, and Rene Colato Laínez to explore how structures of knowing and healing impact the various subject positions Latina/o children take.

Chapter 1 of the dissertation introduces conocimiento narratives by examining the creative acts of young Latina characters in order to demonstrate how traditional künstlerromane, novels of artistic development, exclude issues of race and ethnicity from its definition of artist. Texts like Luis J. Rodriguez’s América is Her Name allow me to highlight the use of art to promote healing in the lives of Latina girls. Chapter 2 investigates how absent fathers, who are “absent” due to immigration status, incarceration, and illness, inform their sons’ conocimiento process and constructions of Latino masculinity. Through Juan Felipe Herrera’s Downtown Boy, for example, I examine how Mr. Palomares’s search for water that will heal his diabetes is at odds with his son’s own conocimiento process. Chapter 3 presents conocimiento as an alternative to the oppressive forces of homonationalism in queer Latino young adult novels and moves toward a holistic queer Latino identity. By examining Charles González-Rice’s Chulito I complicate the notion that Latino youth must leave their neighborhood in order to be openly queer. Chapter 4 follows Trinidad Ramos, a Latina transgender character in Rigoberto González’s The Mariposa Club trilogy, through her senior year and examines the violence that she experiences for identifying as transgender and the ways that conocimiento serves as a means to survive.

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