There is a Rebel in Me': The Shadow-Beast and Diverse Feminine Subjectivities in Chicana Young Adult Literature


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A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS in ENGLISH from Texas A&M University-Corpus in Corpus Christi, Texas.
As diverse young adult literature (YA) garners more interest, the necessity to study and promote it becomes urgent. While the sample size of diverse children’s and YA literature is still small, the growing significance of diversity in children’s literature scholarship indicates the need for a lens with which to examine the nuances and particulars of these books. To this end, I have positioned Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa’s identity-theory surrounding the image Shadow-Beast as a central figure in informing the self-affirmed identity of diverse female protagonists in YA literature. The Shadow-Beast is representative of counterhegemonic subjectivities posed against the normative patriarchy. The Shadow-Beast is a reactionary figure whose agency is derived from directly opposing the normative philosophies that surround her. Whereas other powerful feminine figures that occur throughout literary history demonstrate subversive tendencies, the Shadow-Beast’s entire existence is predicated upon her ability to exist counter to the dominant ideal. While the subversive figure of the Shadow-Beast works within the ulterior spaces of the world, she also learns to refigure herself within social spheres by acting as a savior to her chosen community. To demonstrate the ways the Shadow-Beast identity is actualized, I have focused on studying her emergence in Chicana YA literature. Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, published in the 1980’s, triggered a shift in the critical attention paid to adolescent Chicanas in YA literature through the advent of a subversive, Shadow-Beast-like identity in Cisneros’s adolescent narrator, Esperanza. In recognizing the significance of the figure of the Shadow-Beast identity in Chicana YA literature, this thesis proposes the continued and invested study of this identity in both Chicana and diverse YA literature. By developing a critical lens with which to view diverse YA books, the theory of the Shadow-Beast exposes the power potential of diverse, female, adolescent protagonists.
College of Liberal Arts