University of Michigan Press, Radway, Janice A.
Roach, Catherine. Sturgeon-Dodsworth, Karen. Smith, Andrew. Tenga, Angela and Elizabeth Zimmerman. Waller, Gary. University of Illinois Press, Weisser, Susan Ostrov.
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Considering that both texts belong to the genre of romance, the most vituperated of all literary genres, and also that their writers are Chamorro, and thus marginal to the mainstream canon of US romance authors, those novels might have been, in principle, condemned to oblivion.
However, I will argue that an in-depth analysis of both works is worthwhile for a variety of reasons. First, the study of those two novels shows a number of strategies that undermine common under- or misrepresentations of Chamorro culture. Second, a careful study of those two novels illustrates an interesting evolution in the genre of the romance, which historically has been mostly written by white writers. The Pacific has often featured as an exotic setting in romantic novels by US and European authors, who have tended to offer stereotypical representations of minority ethnic groups.
Third, the two novels under consideration offer a departure from predictable representations of islands in popular literature, thus reconfiguring some of the tenets of Island Studies. The colonial history of Guam is a long and complex one. For a number of years after this, no other Spaniard was interested in Guam.
Then, in , Spain took formal possession of the island, only to neglect it once again and to use it as simply a provisioning stop between New Spain Mexico and Manila in the Philippines Hezel In , Jesuit Diego Luis de Sanvitores was officially sent to the island to start a missionary enterprise. He was accompanied by a small group of Jesuits, some Filipino lay helpers and a small garrison Hezel The Spanish colonizing mission was not a peaceful one.
The Spanish rule came to an end in with the Spanish-American War. Guam was peacefully taken by the US in 24 hours, as the Spanish garrison on the island was very poorly defended. In the years before WWII, Guam was ruled by a succession of navy officers who banned gambling, cockfighting, interracial marriage, male nudity and even the ringing of church bells, which some found a nuisance Kinzer All these stereotypes served several purposes.
For one, the Navy could present itself as a benevolent entity that primarily acted on behalf of Chamorros, not of the US militaristic purposes. The Japanese vision of the newly occupied area did not differ from that of its former colonizers.
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Under the Japanese occupation, many Chamorros were put in concentration camps and were brutally treated. Nonetheless, soon after the renewal of US rule, a number of factors stimulated the revival of the citizenship movement. In the s Guamanians were also allowed to elect their own governors Maga. That the US has pursued a policy of imperialism in Oceania has been documented by a number of scholars.
Charles J. Similarly, Lisa K. For twenty-first-century Chamorros, this means, among other things, denial of the right to vote in US presidential elections. The rich multiculturalism that characterizes present-day Guam and the creolized culture that has been brought on by centuries of intercultural mixing is undeniable Misco and Lee In the past, said genocide materialized in a number of ways: the death of the majority of the Chamorro population after the Spanish-Chamorro Wars, the transformation of the Chamorro language, the dismantling of the matrilineal [End Page 4] hierarchy system, and the introduction of Christianity which displaced the native naturalistic religion.
To all those issues that have affected Chamorros in previous times one should add present-day higher rates of health problems, suicides and family violence compared to other residents of Guam Misco and Lee. The success of Americanization policies in the second half of the twentieth century further aggravated those circumstances. The importance of the latter cannot be sufficiently stressed.
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Prophecies of doom for the Chamorros of Guam are not new. The wife of an American naval officer stationed on Guam right before the Japanese invasion, Van Peenen had dedicated herself to collecting Chamorro tales from the island in an attempt to halt what she saw as the impending demise of native folklore.
He does so by deconstructing each of the eight reasons Van Peenen had listed back in to prove her point that Chamorro culture was headed to its grave: the disappearance of the carabao, which the Chamorros have replaced with the pickup truck; storytelling, relegated by the movies; English, which has displaced the Chamorro language; Catholicism, which has taken over Chamorro spirituality; Chamorro girls, who increasingly marry American military men; Chamorro boys, who join the American armed forces in large numbers; finally, Chamorro youth, who settle far from Guam and gradually forget the stories of their ancestors.
Their activism is obviously a direct way of confronting the impact of colonialism and bringing indigeneity to the forefront. Besides, many works have thematized ways of countering colonial hegemony, the impact and legacy of colonization, the effects of tourism and of living in the diaspora, the return to ancestral knowledge, issues related to nationalism and sovereignty, or the bond with land and ocean, among others McDougall Tragic tales of demise and of erasure should therefore not be taken as proof that Chamorro culture is being depleted of its vitality and strength.
In fact, Chamorro writers offer ample evidence that colonialism, war, even massive destruction after WWII heavy bombardment, have been faced with resilience and followed by rebuilding. Their highly charged political literature has contributed to the reconstruction of tradition and memory, which, as pointed out by Hall, constitute essential elements for indigenous survival. One might rightfully question whether or not Chamorro culture can also be successfully revitalized through the work of lesser-known writers and literary genres with little critical approval, such as the romance novel.
It is therefore my intention to analyze two romance novels in order to see the extent to which they participate in the telling of tales not of demise, but of survival, resistance and rebuilding on their own terms. On top of that, the romances under analysis will prove Emily S. Paula Quinene was born and raised on Guam, though she currently lives in North Carolina. Conquered is an erotic romance which tells the story of Jesi, a year-old Chamorro woman whom readers meet on July 20, , at the end of the Japanese occupation of Guam. She is hiding in a cave, away from the rest of her family, who have sought refuge in other caves.
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Four days later, worried that neither her father nor her brother, who often visit her, have come along for some time, she ventures outside the cave and is met by a group of Japanese soldiers who try to rape her. The Americans have already landed on Guam, and one officer in particular, Johan Landon, despite being wounded, manages to rescue her from the heinous Japanese soldiers.
Jesi takes him to her cave and, thanks to her knowledge of medicinal herbs, cures his wounds. Yet, the novel finishes in a way that differs from many other romances, i. A Mansion on the Moon, also a first novel, has a more complex storyline, as it actually recounts the lives of three generations of Chamorro women from the last days of the Spanish rule to the aftermath of WWII.
Its author, Cathy Sablan Gault, is a Chamorro journalist and public affairs professional. And that was part of the point too. Her romance begins in with the story of Amanda de Leon, a year-old Chamorro woman with some Castilian blood. In fact, on meeting Vivian, he is shocked at discovering a burgeoning feeling of love in his heart, and for a large part of the story he is troubled by the differences of class, education and race between Vivian and himself, as well as by the fact that he aspires to have a successful military career but is certain that marrying Vivian will ruin his prospects of success.
This is one of the challenges that this couple need to overcome, but by no means the smallest of their troubles. When Philip finally decides to choose Vivian over his career, he suffers a fatal accident that leaves him in a coma for months. Meanwhile, Vivian and her father hide themselves from the Japanese in the jungle, but are finally caught and taken to a concentration camp where Vivian herself painfully recovers from a brutal beating she received from a Japanese soldier who had tried to rape her.
After the US liberation of Guam, Philip returns to the island in search of Vivian, carrying an engagement ring he had been willing to give her since before his car accident.
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This being true, it is no less certain that these two novels also show three features that make them stand out from other insular romances: in both of them the island setting fails to appear as an exotic paradise, cultural appropriation and syncretism are crucial elements, and political denunciations of imperialism crop up even in the middle of romantic scenes.
Besides, Island Studies scholars have shown that, in the ever-growing archipelago of romantic islands, there are several representational conventions of the island setting that writers rarely fail to ignore. Neither Conquered nor A Mansion on the Moon fully follow these representational conventions. Conquered does indeed offer its readers a literary map of Guam that features the places the characters stay in or travel to.
Johan, for his part, arrived in Guam in a very pessimistic mood, but his falling in love with Jesi eventually allows him to realize he has found his place in the world, among the Chamorros. Philip, the inveterate playboy, is in his own way an unsatisfied man, as he has no capacity to engage in meaningful sentimental relationships, but the experiences of falling in love with Vivian and progressively [End Page 9] learning more things about her Chamorro culture fully transform him into a sensible man who grows roots in Guamanian land. In fact, the island appears as a crossroads that, for centuries, has harbored Spanish missionaries and settlers, European whalers and merchant ships,  American navy men, Japanese soldiers, Filipino entrepreneurs, and Chamorros from the Northern Mariana Islands, among many other peoples.
The Chamorros of Guam, though certain of their cultural identity, speak a variety of languages, have studied abroad, and are racially and culturally mixed. The fact that both novels take place at the time of WWII further contributes to the idea that Guam is not an isolated island, but a central site in the Pacific which is much coveted by the main contenders.
Not being isolated, it also fails to be a safe haven, and though it is suggested that it has features of the natural paradise, there abound descriptions that point out the horrors that WWII triggered — the concentration camps, the bombarded villages, the ruinous houses, the destroyed lanchos ranches , the famished Chamorros, the scattered families, and the dead — all of which highlight that Guam is not a tourist paradise.
In fact, Quinene and Sablan Gault inscribe the presence of Japanese and Euro-American colonizers and their abuses, thus portraying a war-torn and colonialism-shaped island that will need to rebuild its geographical and cultural topography for the n th time. Though they justify US participation in WWII and, to a great extent, the presence of US liberating forces on the island, they nonetheless question the imperialist drive of those same forces.
Those two contradictory impulses thus simultaneously justify US intervention in Guam while voicing deep reservations about the very same system that is being endorsed. There are other ways in which these two romances stand out in the genre they belong to. For starters, both present interracial relationships that are frowned upon in the societies the novels describe and that, even today, are not all that common in mainstream romance.
For their part, William A. Gleason and Eric M.
Conquered does feature several highly charged sexual scenes, but A Mansion on the Moon can be accurately described as prudish in sexual terms. As regards consumerism, however, both radically abstain from promoting it. Jesi refuses to buy a wedding dress or shoes, but makes them herself from an old sheet and a sack, respectively Quinene, Conquered ; Johan, for his part, is in charge of making the wedding rings Quinene, Conquered In A Mansion on the Moon , Philip does buy a locket for Vivian, with a diamond and all, as well as an engagement ring, but, other than this, there are virtually no references to consumerism.