Cover of The Border and the Line by Dean J. Franco
The Border and the Line
Race, Literature, and Los Angeles
Dean J. Franco

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January 2019
224 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9781503607293
Paper ISBN: 9781503607774

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Los Angeles is a city of borders and lines, from the freeways that transect its neighborhoods to streets like Pico Boulevard that slash across the city from the ocean to the heart of downtown, creating both ethnic enclaves and pathways for interracial connection. Examining neighborhoods in east, south central, and west LA—and their imaginative representation by Chicana, African American, and Jewish American writers—this book investigates the moral and political implications of negotiating space.

The Border and the Line takes up the central conceit of "the neighbor" to consider how the geography of racial identification and interracial encounters are represented and even made possible by literary language. Dean J. Franco probes how race is formed and transformed in literature and in everyday life, in the works of Helena María Viramontes, Paul Beatty, James Baldwin, and the writers of the Watts Writers Workshop. Exploring metaphor and metonymy, as well as economic and political circumstance, Franco identifies the potential for reconciliation in the figure of the neighbor, an identity that is grounded by geographical boundaries and which invites their crossing.

About the author

Dean J. Franco is Professor of English and Director of the Humanities Institute at Wake Forest University. He is the author of Race, Rights, and Recognition: Jewish American Literature since 1969 (2012) and Ethnic American Literature: Comparing Chicano, Jewish, and African American Writing (2006).

"Dean Franco's vibrant prose and dexterous analysis make The Border and the Line a significant contribution to the study of U.S. ethnic literatures. So much more than a regional case study, this book gifts us a comparative imaginary as far-reaching as it is urgently needed."

—Keith Feldman, University of California, Berkeley

"The Border and the Line is a must-read for anyone concerned with the resurgence of ethically informed reading in ethnic studies, Jewish studies, and literary criticism. Few scholars today read texts as astutely as Dean Franco. He does so here to demonstrate how we all live in relational proximity to our neighbors, even as constructed barriers seek to keep us separate. Superbly written."

—Michael Hames-García, University of Oregon