Californian Exopolis: Hector Tobar’s and Tim Z. Hernandez’s Literary Interventions

    • Presentation speakers
      • Katarzyna Nowak-McNeice, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain


    In my presentation I focus on the literary representations of California´s underrepresented communities and their habitats. I interpret these places as zones of disruption of the historical and cultural discourses traditionally portraying California as paradise and a migrant´s dream, even if increasingly so the dream proves compromised, if not corrupted. Hector Tobar´s The Barbarian Nurseries (2011), and Tim Z. Hernandez´s Mañana Means Heaven (2013) show spaces of resistance to the globalizing impulses, focusing respectively on a migrant´s experience of a city´s labyrinth, providing an alternative reading of the cityscape (Tobar); and the valley where constant vacillation across the border and between cultures is a daily experience of the fields´workers (Hernandez). Both novels complicate the possible triumphant reading of the cityscape as an all-inclusive actualization of the multicultural dream, as they portray local cultures as being simultaneously shaped and occluded by the larger national and trans-national forces. I see these novels as interventions in the discussion about the state´s past and its identity, as they give voice to the cultural and social agents who are traditionally silenced in the narrative of the nation´s history. In order to understand Tobar´s and Hernandez´s representations of local communities and their struggle to assert their right to their own understanding of historical time and local space I turn to such concepts as Marc Auge´s ’non-places’ (1995), which describe new modes of experiencing supermodernity in terms of spaces and relations; and Camilla Fojas’s ‘schizopolis’ (2008), which helps us understand the struggle for representation in the urban context. Seen from this perspective, California emerges as a place whose representation resists simple binaries of global and local, urban and suburban, or future and history, drawing a picture of supermodernity where people are never, yet always, at home, and where the present moment reigns supreme with all urgency.