Guatemalan diasporic fiction as refugee literature : an analysis of Héctor Tobar’s The tattooed soldier and Tanya Maria Barrientos’s Family resemblance
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Despite a large influx of Guatemalans to cities such as Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., their narrative has largely been subsumed in the traditional Latino/a immigrant narrative. The importance of the historical specificity and traumatic nature of Guatemalan immigration, as a consequence of the Central American revolutions, has only now begun to be studied by scholars such as Arturo Arias and Claudia Milian, though the field of Latino/a studies is still largely focused on immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Thus, through an examination of two novels by Guatemalan-American authors, Héctor Tobar’s The Tattooed Soldier (1998/2000) and Tanya Maria Barrientos’ Family Resemblance (2003), I compare how each novel differently positions Guatemalan diasporic identity around traumas surrounding the Guatemalan civil war and diaspora. Ultimately, I argue that Tobar establishes Guatemalan diasporic fiction as a kind of refugee literature, while Barrientos attempts to fit the Guatemalan diasporic narrative into a traditional Latino/a immigrant narrative using the genre of chica lit, thus flattening out the unique historical experience of the Guatemalan civil war while also highlighting the constraints of the chica lit genre for Central American-American women writers.