Coming of Age at the Margins: The Diasporic Coming-Of-Age Novel in Works by Hanif Kureishi, Sandra Cisneros, and Yuri Herrera
The Bildungsroman is a genre of the novel that portrays a process of identification by which heroes construct their identities based on the cultural signs, symbols, and practices in their social environments. The end of the process, in its most traditional iteration, illustrates the ideal subject of the fictionalized society. This traditional iteration corresponds to the German white middle class of the late 18th Century. Produced and consumed by the Bourgeoisie, these novels followed the coming-of-age processes of boys who became respected adults who embodied the values and practices of the middle class. However, I focus on three Coming-of-age novels in which the archetypal plot does not unravel in a traditional manner: The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990) by Hanif Kureishi, and Señales que precederán el fin del mundo (2009) by Yuri Herrera. The heroes are culturally hybrid and marginalized. Thus at the end they can neither find nor create an ideal model of adulthood within the limits of their fictionalized societies. Ultimately, the impossibility of becoming an ideal citizen and worker subverts the archetypal plot and interrupts the formative process. I propose a new model to read these novels: the Diasporic Coming-of-age. The formative processes may remain unfinished, buy these stories are sites for complex and intersectional exploration of the cultural practices, signs, and symbols that conform a fluid identity. Where the first kind of Bildungsromane offered readers an ideal model of imitation, Diasporic Coming-of-age novels empower readers to resist rather than fulfill stereotypes. 2015 marks the 220th anniversary of the publication of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795), often considered the first Bildungsroman, but the Coming-of-age genre is still relevant today, at a time when diasporas and globalization beg the questions: who am I and what is my place in the world?
Duran, Purdue University.
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