2014 Runner-Up, MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies
In Unbecoming Blackness, Antonio López uncovers an important, otherwise unrecognized century-long archive of literature and performance that reveals Cuban America as a space of overlapping Cuban and African diasporic experiences.
López shows how Afro-Cuban writers and performers in the U.S. align Cuban black and mulatto identities, often subsumed in the mixed-race and postracial Cuban national imaginaries, with the material and symbolic blackness of African Americans and other Afro-Latinas/os. In the works of Alberto O’Farrill, Eusebia Cosme, Rómulo Lachatañeré, and others, Afro-Cubanness articulates the African diasporic experience in ways that deprive negro and mulato configurations of an exclusive link with Cuban nationalism. Instead, what is invoked is an “unbecoming” relationship between Afro-Cubans in the U.S and their domestic black counterparts. The transformations in Cuban racial identity across the hemisphere, represented powerfully in the literary and performance cultures of Afro-Cubans in the U.S., provide the fullest account of a transnational Cuba, one in which the Cuban American emerges as Afro-Cuban-American, and the Latino as Afro-Latino.
"Unbecoming Blackness promises to make a transformative impact on Cuban American Literary Studies; it will certainly put López on the map as one of the fields most important and groundbreaking scholars." ~Ricardo Ortiz,author of Cultural Erotics in Cuban America
"Unbecoming Blacknessis a stunning tour de force: it serves as a call for those critically engaged in the African diaspora work with a focus on Latin America to return to the archive and to study the wealth of information that remains there, unnoticed....Lopez forces readers to rethink notions of blackness so that these ideas are specific to place, yet also to consider the fluidity of these discourses in relation to physical movement and their reestablishment in new locations. His study also demands fluent interdisciplinarity: Lopez analyzes texts, photographs, sound recordings, and film, all of which challenge readers to expand beyond their comfort zone as scholars. This text is an extraordinary addition to Cuban studies, Cuban American studies, US Latina/o and Latin American studies, American studies, African American studies, and African diasporic studies." ~Vanessa K. Valdes, MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States