Race and Upward Mobility examines class dynamics in Mexican American and African American literature, television, and film from the 1940s-2000s. Analyzing a wide-range of texts, it explains why particular narratives are employed to capture the conflicts in a stratified society and why the two largest racialized ethnic groups in the U.S. share or differ in their narrative strategies. Specifically, Race and Upward Mobility explores how these two groups depict the effects of capitalism and white supremacy through one of the most popular American narrative arcs—the upward mobility narrative. This is a narrative genre that includes sincere portrayals of desires for financial solvency and social incorporation, satiric critiques of or ambivalence toward material accumulation in a society with a severe racial wealth gap, and varied interpretations of how to address social and economic inequities. Analyzing novels by authors such as Oscar Zeta Acosta and Helena María Viramontes, Gloria Naylor and Percival Everett; sitcoms such as The Jeffersons and the George Lopez show; and films such as Machete and The Pursuit of Happyness, Race and Upward Mobility demonstrates how cultural texts help shape the way we think about socioeconomic hierarchies and group boundaries.
About the Author: Elda María Román
Elda María Román is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Southern California. As a scholar in literary and cultural studies, she researches the effects of race and class across groups, disciplines, and genres. In addition to authoring the book Race and Upward Mobility, she has published articles on Latinx and African American cultural production. A first-generation Mexican American, she grew up in Providence, RI and received her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. At USC, she teaches classes on ethnic literature and media.