Although Chicanos died in the American war in Viet Nam in disproportionate numbers, they do not figure significantly into well-known literary accounts of the war. Nor do Chicana/o narratives of the war begin to appear in substantial numbers until the 1990s, two decades after the war ended. This gap results in part from familiar ethnocentrism in publishing and in part from a deleterious formulation of masculine authenticity in Chicano nationalist texts, which favored representations of aggressive Chicano protestors over those of ambivalent Chicano soldiers. In contrast to the masculine bravado of Oscar Zeta Acosta's Revolt of the Cockroach People (1975), for example, Alfredo Véa's 1998 novel Gods Go Begging demonstrates the tension between the warrior male ideal of Chicano nationalism and the divided loyalties of Chicano soldiers. Gods Go Begging also continues a tradition in Chicano Viet Nam war literature of analogizing Chicanos and Vietnamese revolutionaries, a potentially radical kinship undercut by the material realities of national and cultural loyalties. Patricia Santana's 2002 novel Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility suggests the centrality of the war for a rising generation of Chicana activists, highlighting how the absence of young men from Mexican families laid bare the gender dynamics of family life. Véa's and Santana's novels revise familiar narratives of the Chicana/o movement, calling attention not to the way the movement was parochial and sexist, an oversimplification, but rather to how problems of gender and ethnic authenticity have complicated the movement from the beginning.
John Alba Cutler; Disappeared Men: Chicana/o Authenticity and the American War in Viet Nam. American Literature 1 September 2009; 81 (3): 583–611. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2009-027
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