Through a reading of Arturo Islas's posthumously published La Mollie and the King of Tears, this essay offers a critique of liberal, multicultural uses of postcolonial hybridity in the context of U.S. literature and literary criticism. The essay reviews current uses of hybridity as a celebratory model of either an ideal embodied pluralism or a free-floating deconstructive signifier. It presents an alternative model in Islas's use of hybridity for critiquing readerly desires for identity representation and common, everyday habits of thinking of identity in terms of a one-to-one relation between an identity category and an individual body. In La Mollie, sexuality, ethnicity, and race are revealed to be always mutually constituted. They become legible simultaneously as inhabited positions, projected identifications, and metaphors used to describe both internal and external spaces too complicated to house individual and whole identities. Through such representations of sexuality, ethnicity, and race, Islas presents hybridity as both a (sometimes violently) lived experience and a conscious literary aesthetic. The essay ends by discussing how Islas places his readers in a psychic space where they must recognize the historical circumstances that have produced inequality through identity and desire, and their own complicity in this production.

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