Mapping Queer Diasporas in Literary Second Cities: Benjamín Alire Sáenz, Gabby Rivera, and Ocean Vuong

Ricardo Quintana-Vallejo


This study focuses on the personal metaphorical maps of queer protagonists in three diasporic coming-of-age novels. These novels are, Benjamín Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012), Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath (2019), and Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019). The study does not use the concept of ‘literary cartography’ to refer to actual cartographic renditions or mappings of literary texts, but rather as an intradiegetic tool that enables the study of how characters metaphorically map their fictional milieus and geographies. The geographic marginalization of the protagonists, a consequence of their alterity in terms of class, ethnicity, and sexuality, renders specific symbolic maps of their cities and limits, which foreground the places where queer sexuality becomes intelligible and multicultural communities can gather. The novels show three different ways of allegorically mapping coming-of-age processes onto the spaces ‘secondary literary cities:’ El Paso, TX, Portland, OR, and Hartford CT. The coming-of-age framework enables the notion of the characters’ cartographies as ongoing processes (rather than accomplished facts), traced simultaneously to their developing identities. Finally, this study reworks Michel Foucault’s category of the heterotopia to analyze the counter-hegemonic sites where most of the key moments of queer maturation take place in the novels.


queer; diaspora; migration; coming-of-age; literary cartography; heterotopia

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