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Author ORCID Identifier 0000-0001-7459-0443


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Laura Doyle

Second Advisor

Laura M. Furlan

Third Advisor

Luis Marentes

Subject Categories

African American Studies | American Literature | Chicana/o Studies | Ethnic Studies | Latina/o Studies


The neglect of the stories of African American and Latinx soldiers of color, combined with the relative absence of direct testimony by such soldiers, is very much on the minds of writers who achieve what Toni Morrison calls a “literary archeology” that fills in the gaps of the historical record. By closely examining John Oliver Killens’s And Then We Heard the Thunder, Alfredo Véa’s Gods Go Begging, and John Edgar Wideman’s Two Cities: A Love Story, in this study I argue that twentieth-century African American and Latinx war fiction penned between the start of the Civil Rights era and 9/11 grapples with the concept of war as fought on two fronts: the official military theatre in which characters struggle alongside and sometimes against their white counterparts, and a metaphorical “war” at home for social justice as equal citizens. The troubled intersections between these two fronts distinguishes this fiction and shapes both its form and themes. I establish ways that African American and Latinx literature of war diverges from what has become canonical American war literature through the critiques each offer of the military, the varied ways each engages tropes of innocence and disillusionment, and their relationship to the concept of authenticity of the foot soldier’s experience. Through narrative play with memory, elision, time, and realism, these texts plumb, resist, and rewrite themes of citizen imaginaries, gender, transnational longings, conflicted loyalties, and ironic sacrifice, while seeking to people the fictional worlds of war with the voices and experiences of those serving invisibly. I bring transnational, postcolonial, and feminist studies to bear on theorizing these themes, particularly as many of these fictional texts examine the relationship between citizenship, gender, and military participation and contemplate the interconnectedness of national and global racial struggle. As such, I address the scholarly lacuna in the criticism of war literature and examine representations of the U.S. military and wars from the perspective of African American and Latinx writers.