Cooking Up the Politics of Identity, Corporeality, and Cultura: Humor and Subversion in Denise Chávez's Loving Pedro Infante

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2010


Chicana author Denise Chávez has produced three novels: The Last of the Menu Girls (1986) , Face of an Angel (1995). and her latest work, Loving Pedro Infante (2002). Humor is a common thread throughout Chávez's, particularly the latter two books. In fact, humor plays a key role in the framework Chávez constructs in her writing to address various issues and their connection to gender. This humor is not ludic, functioning instead as a strategic subversion of dominant discourses regarding class, gender, ethnicity, body politics and identity. Tey Diana Rebolledo suggests that Chávez "uses humor in her narratives to critique contemporary life and to infuse us with an acute (and sometimes agonizing) sense of our own predicaments. She also challenges the traditional representation of women as passive, accepting, and "nice" by utilizing exaggerated descriptions of women's bodies and all the taboo subjects collected with the body and bringing them out in the open" (159). Rebolledo succinctly observes that "Humor functions as a regenerative strategy, questioning social relations and reshaping them. In both Face of an Angel and Loving Pedro Infante the humor allows the women characters to question their positions in an unequal society and find a way to live that allows them to be themselves. It allows them to create their own voices, their own subjectivity" (173). In Loving Pedro Infante, it is humor in combination with both food as figurative language and English/Spanish that shape a framework for the subversion of politics regarding the body, culture and identity.

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