Transnational Borderlands in Greg Sarris’s Grand Avenue and Watermelon Nights
Ruxandra Radulescu (University of Bucharest) [BIO]
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Critical positions with regard to the transnational dimension of American Indian literatures acknowledge the dialogic mode of interaction which has characterized the mutual shaping of Native and Euroamerican cultures since the first encounters. However, as Krupat and Teuton suggest, a transnational reading of Native American literatures must acknowledge the strength of contemporary (American Indian) nationalist critical interventions which are suspicious of universalist-inclusivist propensities glossing over tribally specific traditions and assumed cultural authenticity. Thus, from a methodological point of view, this paper will attempt to negotiate a useful approach between seemingly opposing critical sides – the “separatists” and the “cosmopolitans” – and will argue that it is precisely this mediating position which best enables one to analyze Native American texts across a transnational horizon.
In light of this enlarged perspective, the paper will focus on two novels by Pomo Indian writer Greg Sarris, Grand Avenue and Watermelon Nights, where the ex-centric positionalities occupied by mixedblood members of a displaced Californian Pomo tribe radically redesign the field of postcolonial inquiry in the multicultural environment of the city of Santa Rosa. Functioning within a space of ongoing U.S. “internal colonization,” Sarris’s female characters produce new transcultural identity narratives as they record their modern nomadic experience. The principle of interconnectivity, theorized by Sarris in Keeping Slug Woman Alive, will be considered in light of Grewal’s notions of transnational connectivities and postcolonial cosmopolitanism and will form the basis of a critique of class and gender relations in the Filipino-African-American-Portuguese-Pomo-Indian urban ghettos.