Giannina Braschi’s Yo-Yo Boing!

The Puerto Rican-American writer Giannina Braschi’s 1998 novel (this is the best term I can think of for it, though it is only a novel insofar as that term is now so all encompassing, like a giant, shaggy literary beast somewhere between Cookie Monster and Grendel that devours everything in its path) Yo-Yo Boing! (translated into English by Tess O’Dwyer) is a gripping pastiche of a book that is all about voice rather than plot. The bulk of it is a dialogue between unnamed voices, sometimes between two fairly recognizable personas (a woman and man), sometimes between two indestinct personas that are apparently different than the first two (gender unclear), sometimes between at least three personas that are different than all of those which have come before (at least two of them are women). But the rapid-action dialogue is interesting no matter who is speaking. The dialogue meanders from discussions of poetry to discussions of Puerto Rican politics to discussions of academic politics to discussions of bodily excretions, circling back through these topics several times. The last line is “God, who is dead!”, so the book falls firmly into the postmodernist anti-universal narrative camp. The style is like a Puerto Rican Kathy Acker mixed with some James Joyce mixed with some Ernest Hemingway mixed with just a dash of Samuel R. Delany. This hodgepodge might alienate many readers, but I really enjoy it, and look forward to reading more of Braschi’s work.

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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