Cowan, Janie Irene
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This dissertation explores representations of race, class, gender and ideologies of assimilation in thirty-two young adult novels involving the Mexican immigrant experience published from 1953-2009. The study draws upon several theories, but is primarily located within the paradigm of critical Marxist educational, cultural, and literary theories including the sociology of school knowledge and critical multiculturalism based upon the work of Raymond Williams, Michael Apple, Joel Taxel, Stephen May and Christine Sleeter. I also draw upon theories of assimilation throughout U.S. history such as e pluribus unum, the melting pot, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and hybridity, with emphasis upon the work of Homi Bhabha that conceptualizes cultural hybridity as spaces of cultural negotiation and rearticulation. To provide further context for the study, I also review representations of Mexican Americans in larger American culture via historical accounts, school textbooks, and the entertainment media of television and film. I address the following research questions: What ideologies of assimilation are suggested in young adult contemporary fiction involving the Mexican immigrant experience? How do they change (or not change) over time? How do the intersections of assimilation ideologies and representations of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender in young adult contemporary fiction change (or not change) over time? To analyze the texts, I used a qualitative methodology of literary content analysis. Information from the novels was grouped into the following self-constructed categories: Issues of story (setting, narration, protagonist ethnicity/gender, author ethnicity/gender); representations of ethnicity (physical descriptions, characterizations, relationship to those outside of culture); representations of socioeconomic status (occupations, living conditions); representations of gender (roles, attitudes, descriptions); issues of language (inclusion, accuracy); issues of cultural identity; references to agency and position; references to Mexican American history. It was found that the novels fall into four ideological categories: assimilation as unattainable, as conformity, as adaptation/bicultural practice, and as hybridity. Although earlier publications (1950s-1970s) largely reflected ideologies of unattainability or conformity, some later publications also continued to reflect these ideologies, including the most recent title of the sample (2009). Mexican Americans were often stereotyped within these ideologies, reflecting a selective tradition. Novels suggested multiple ideologies, often reflected through secondary characters.