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Transgressing race and community in Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go.

During World War II, Chester Himes was one of more than 70,000 African Americans who moved to Los Angeles and one of the many transcontinental migrants who would double the existing black population in southern California (Sides 252). Much like Bob Jones, the semi-autobiographical main character of his first published novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go (1945), Himes hoped to benefit from relaxed racial restrictions on hiring due to the massive labor shortage in the defense plants. In his 1971 autobiography The Quality of Hurt: The Early Years, Himes accounts for his four years in Los Angeles in a scant three pages. He details his personal "hurts," including his history of tough breaks, rough childhood, underworld existence, and a seven-and-one-half-year sentence served in an Ohio prison, and describes how these events are transformed into racial anguish:

Los Angeles hurt me racially as much as any city I have ever known -- much more than any city I remember from the South. It was the lying hypocrisy that hurt me. Black people were treated much the same as they were in an industrial city of the South. They were Jim-Crowed in housing, in employment, in public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants.... The difference was that the white people of Los Angeles seemed to be saying, "Nigger, ain't we good to you?" (73-74) (1)

In response to this hypocrisy, Himes depicts himself as unable to reconcile the cruel contradictions of Californian dreams and the State's racism, the economic promise that masks deeply rooted racial violence and hatred. Similarly, Himes's character Bob becomes enmeshed in and almost paralyzed by the racial conditions caused by wartime hysteria and nativism against the enemy nation of Japan. (2)

The historical context of wartime Los Angeles is crucial to understanding the novel. (3) Bob details his experiences both in its segregated neighborhoods and in his encounters with the growing local African American community that is finding increasing political and economic opportunities in the wartime boom economy. Historians are beginning to analyze the labor organizing and racial consciousness in the 1940s in order to trace the roots of the Civil Rights and Third World Movements of the 1950s and 1960s. (4) From this developing historical tradition, scholars are examining the unique "black popular front" emerging in Los Angeles during World War II. (5) With these developments, it is important to reassess Himes's literary and historical achievement in if He Hollers Let Him Go and examine his fictional response to the events of the early 1940s -- the Japanese American internment and the Zoot Suit Riots -- and their relationship to the African American community. (6) This reassessment also correlates to what literary scholars have begun to isolate about the "Los Angeles novel" in terms of noir, detective, and science fiction. (7) Because of its spatial evocation of minority communities and historical racism particular to Los Angeles itself, Himes's novel merits substantial consideration in any formulation of this regional sub-genre. (8)

In this essay, I will discuss how wartime racism and classism become coded onto both the spatial geography of Los Angeles and the racialized body of Bob himself. Set in early 1944, If He Hollers Let Him Go recreates a Los Angeles demographically changed by the forced removal of 94,000 Japanese Americans from California two years earlier and by the widespread violence against Mexican American youth in the Zoot Suit Riots in June 1943. Both events reverberate in Bob's psyche, feeding his fear of a personal racial apocalypse: "Every time I stepped outside I saw a challenge I had to accept or ignore. Every day I had to make one decision a thousand times: Is it now? Is now the time?" (4). Bob's first-person narrative begins by relating a mysterious dream about a dog with a "heavy stiff wire twisted about its neck" (1) that foreshadows his increasing fear of his own death, his own lynching, real and metaphoric. (9) Furthermore, the absence of Japanese Americans, the horrifying suddenness of their relocation and int ernment, and the vicious beatings of young Mexican Americans sporting zoot suits underscore the inherent contradictions of the American Dream. Unlike most of the characters in the novel, Bob refuses to accept the scapegoating of other races or classes as a means to rationalize white racism in southern California. In contrast, he recognizes the racist underbelly of Los Angeles's economic and social promise as manifested in the state-sanctioned crimes of Japanese American internment and the Zoot Suit Riots. He discerns that both acts of racism are linked, even promulgated, by the putatively safe and unquestioned excuse of American patriotism. Indeed, wartime propaganda conflates the enemy abroad with the citizen at home and deems the violent displacement and disciplining of a racialized body as a patriotic act. (10)

Even within the African American community, Bob is unable to resolve the conflicts among the different classes in Los Angeles, such as the antagonism between the earlier, established black bourgeoisie represented by the Harrison family and the more recent, working-class black migrants flocking to wartime jobs. Having no language for his bodily and psychic pain, alienated from all aspects of society, and stripped of his future, livelihood, and freedom, Bob cannot create a coherent notion of community in America; there is no safe place that will protect him from racial violence. Instead, isolated and criminalized, he is ultimately drafted into the American military, a rigid microcosm of American society in the extraterritorial, extranational space of war, and forced again to become a new migrant.

Bob's failure to achieve the proverbial promised land through migration corresponds with the plot of the fugitive narrative. In his seminal work on African American migration and literature, critic Lawrence Rodgers offers a definition of the "fugitive migrant novel" as a critique both of the American Bildungsroman and of fugitive slave narratives of the nineteenth century:

Fugitive migrant novels also undermine the utopian connotations derived from popular images of the North as the biblical land of Canaan. Unable to imagine any inhabitable geography (symbolic or real), they offer the migration form's severest critique of ascent as a mechanism to achieve racial and cultural advancement. (98)

As a failed Bildungsroman in which Bob's inexorable trajectory thwarts his plans and sends him to a possible death, If He Hollers Lets Him Go can be considered a variation of the fugitive migrant novel. Rather than reinforcing the fugitive migrant novel, a form that contains the idea of another possible existence, whether in death or expatriation, I posit a modification of the fugitive migrant trope to include Michel Foucault's concept of transgression.

Bob embodies the continual movement defined by Foucauldian transgression; his body is the transgressor that manifests limits as it attempts to erase them. In Foucault's essay "Preface to Transgression," he argues that, through transgression, limits are revealed and, conversely, that, through limits, transgression becomes possible: "Transgression carries the limit right to the limit of its being; transgression forces the limit to face the fact of its imminent disappearance, to find itself in what it excludes (perhaps, to be more exact, to recognize itself for the first time)..." (34). But transgression is not seen to have a telos in exteriority or in its ability to see itself for the first time; instead, Foucault is careful to envision the movement as "crossing and recrossing" the limit, as this rupture allows the limit to incorporate what has been previously excluded into the very "core of its being" (34). This transgression can be perceived metaphorically as the movement across threatening geographical divis ions of Los Angeles. In the transgression of limits, however, Bob is silenced by his inability to articulate his location, a position that excludes neither location but also belongs to neither.

Transgression signifies the permanent migrant without roots in either origin or destination. Although this movement carries some notion of self-expression and agency, the migrant still exists in an intercessory moment between people, communities, classes, and races. In the novel, Bob's personal migration lies not so much in his physical distance from Cleveland, but rather in his negotiation of others' migrations, their emotions and prejudices toward each other. Transgression becomes an appropriate metaphor for Bob's own physical and psychological homelessness. Bob continually migrates just as he constantly moves, transversing the different segregated spaces of Los Angeles: the white Westside, the Harrisons' elite black Westside (28th and Western), and the seedy Southside of Central Avenue and downtown. However, this transgressive figure is ultimately fixed into a stereotypical identity of a black man in wartime Los Angeles.

In particular, one of the spaces that Bob transgresses reveals the overlapping limits of racism directed at all minority communities. Driving through Bronzeville, a primarily African American section of downtown Los Angeles during the war, Bob remembers the Japanese Americans who used to live in the same area before their incarceration. By August 1942, the federal government displaced Japanese Americans on the West Coast, imprisoning them in holding centers such as the Santa Anita racetrack (for residents of Los Angeles) until "relocation" camps could be hastily fabricated in remote locales across the country (Chan 124-27). Their relocation was motivated by war hysteria and rampant rumors of espionage fomented by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. Given the overcrowded residential areas near the war industries, African Americans moved into the hastily abandoned residential and business districts of the Japanese American community.

This negotiation of interracial spaces can be seen in the unsigned 1943 article "Little Tokio's Jumpin' Now," condensed from the Los Angeles Sentinel, one of the few African American newspapers in the city, which discusses the then-recent influx of African American migrants into the former Japanese American ethnic enclave in Downtown Los Angeles:

If the War Department ever relents and permits its former residents to return to Little Tokio in Los Angeles they'll hardly know the place. The joint's jumping now.... Jitterbugs, hep-cats and just plain hard working war workers have replaced the nervous Nisei, the shrinking Issei and the intolerant Kibei.

The heady emotionalism of store front churches supplies the spiritual needs of a people who had hardly heard of Buddhism or Shintoism and who never saw the likes of the Buddhist Temple that stands deserted and abashed. The loud familiarity and the easy friendliness of the sharecropping South now reign in a section of the city once given over to the ever polite and always reserved manners of the Sons of Heaven.

Little Tokio is part and parcel of Los Angeles' ever-expanding Negro community. (97)

The article celebrates the boisterous culture of the black migrants that erases the quiet demeanor of the community's previous residents: the Issei and the Nisei, first- and second-generation Japanese Americans, respectively, and the Kibei, Japanese Americans educated in Japan. Bob senses that the external forces of racism disrupt the communal body--the lingering spatial resonance of a distinct racial hurt, in Himes's terms.

Although the article in the Los Angeles Sentinel begins by comparing the quiet Japanese Americans to the loud presence of black cultural creativity and ingenuity, the anonymous author later voices serious concerns for the growing African American community that swells with "every train" that "discharges fresh seekers after the high war wages" (97). Increasing job opportunities in the booming wartime defense industries encouraged unprecedented migration from rural and urban centers alike. This growing economic and social presence of blacks in Los Angeles created tensions in the workplace and on the streets. Moreover, established (white) Angelenos increasingly resented the recent influx of minorities who competed for affordable housing in the unofficially segregated residential areas. Responding to this overcrowding and contestation of spaces, If He Hollers depicts a wartime Los Angeles divided into white and minority neighborhoods patrolled by police who repeatedly harass persons of color transgressing these p hysical boundaries. For example, policemen arbitrarily stop Bob and Alice while driving in Santa Monica, and later, when the couple is arrested, the desk sergeant at the station threatens them to" get back where you belong and stay there'" (64). The policeman's order echoes not only the rampant racism of the era, but also the restrictive covenants that legally reinforced segregated neighborhoods by forbidding homeowners from selling to minorities. These restrictive covenants barred upwardly mobile African Americans from buying into white communities and pushed back growing migrant communities until the Supreme Court ruled these overtly racist clauses unconstitutional in 1948. (11) For Bob, these unspoken yet legalized boundaries become his metaphoric barbed wire and desert.

Instead of military guard towers policing Japanese Americans in remote internment camps, the civilian police monitor and circumscribe the physical and economic mobility of African Americans within the various areas of Los Angeles. Both racial groups are thereby effectively interned: the Japan- anese Americans in desert prisons, the African Americans in neighborhoods constrained by residential ordinances and segregation.

War hysteria, fostered by American patriotism, becomes a widespread, tangible racism that Bob recognizes as targeting all minorities after the bombing of Pearl Harbor: "After that it was everything. It was the look in the white people's faces when I walked down the streets. It was that crazy, wild-eyed, unleashed hatred that the first Jap bomb on Pearl Harbour let loose in a flood. All that tight, crazy feeling of race as thick in the street as gas fumes" (4). Bob be ins to speak in an inchoate language racial fear and pain. He is unable to express his racialized body under racist conditions in the ambiguous pronoun it of unchecked racism. Earlier in the novel, the reality of racism manifested by the removal of another racial group heightens Bob's subconscious fears:

Maybe it had started then, I'm not sure, or maybe it wasn't until I'd seen them send the Japanese away that I'd noticed it. Little Riki Oyana singing "God Bless America" and going to Santa Anita with his parents [the] next day. It was taking a man up by the roots and locking him up without a chance. Without a trial. Without a charge. Without even giving him a chance to say one word. It was thinking about if they ever did that to me, Robert Jones, Mrs. Jones's dark son, that started me to getting scared. (3) (12)

In this passage, Bob again avoids naming racism, but his frustration is evident in the halting language. By addressing himself formally as "Robert Jones," Bob at once resists racism and becomes subject to it, marking himself as a potential victim. In noting his "yelow' skin, Bob recognizes the literal similarities of skin color and race that could possibly ally him with the Japanese: "I was the same colour as the Japanese and I couldn't tell the difference. 'A yeller-bellied Jap' coulda meant me too" (4).

Although the Japanese Americans may have been removed from Los Angeles and other urban centers, the memory of this forced expulsion of a minority group disturbs Bob to the point that his language reveals his psychological distress. He is unable to name the idea of racism in his recollection of little Riki, evasively referring to "it" in the above passage. When Bob drives through Little Tokyo, he comments vaguely on the "spooks and the spills" that have taken over, but he primarily dwells on the ghostly aftermath of another group's forced migration. In a sense, Bob recognizes a community metaphorically lynched by American society without legal recourse. The tortured corpse-the hideous bodily testimony to lynching-becomes the "deserted" and "abashed" Buddhist temple mentioned in the article; the abandoned buildings and streets of Little Tokyo parallel the eerie absence of entire black American communities in the South that migrated north immediately after white violence.13 Under these circumstances, Bob comes t o recognize the same racist motivation underlies both wartime internments. The effacement of the previous residents of Little Tokyo in the Negro Digest article actually foreshadows the desultory material conditions for the new minority: Black migrants are forced to endure the Japanese Americans' earlier experience of structural racism in the form of residential segregation and substandard living conditions. Because of the restrictive covenants and overt harassment, African Americans inherited the overcrowded and substandard living conditions of Little Tokyo, conditions plaguing communities of color in Los Angeles (97).

Bob is further haunted by the knowledge that white society will attack an entire ethnic enclave at the merest hint of potentially transgressive relations between the races. While in a bar in Little Tokyo, Bob sees a young white prostitute drunkenly attaching herself to some black patrons. When the woman's two white male friends try to leave her behind, Bob feels the potential danger of the situation: "If the boy got hurt, or if there was any kind of rumpus with the white chick in it, there wouldn't be any way at all to stop a riot-the white GIs would swarm into Little Tokyo like they did into the Mexican districts during the zoot suit riots" (77). Bob anticipates the white authority instigating a military attack-a domestic D-Day-invading the enemy territory of an ethnic enclave like Little Tokyo; the minority communities are thereby reconstituted as enemy war zones inimical to America. Instead of envisioning the police attempting to subdue a riot, Bob superimposes the image of white GIs penetrating the bounda ries of the community in order to discipline the unruly racialized body, a discipline in the beatings of young Mexican Americans a year earlier by white servicemen on leave.

For ten days in early June 1943, white servicemen and Chicanos clashed in what would become known as the Zoot Suit Riots. These acts of violence were characterized by the violence against Chicano men wearing the distinctive suit. In the early 1940s, the zoot suit became "the most visible emblem of estrangement" for Mexican American and African American young men in the cities due to their lack of educational and occupational opportunities (Sanchez 267). '4The War Production Board banned the zoot suit because of the extra material required in the long jackets and draped trousers. In wearing the suit, however, black and Chicano urban youths spawned a whole vocabulary-a "me a anguage of race" as the double voice of oppression and of opposition (Higginbotham 267) as well as a means of cultural communication, expression, and movement.15 During the riots, mobs stripped Mexican American men wearing the suit, in the process robbing them of their singular voice and expression through apparel. Chicano historian George Sanchez argues that the media, particularly the Los Angeles Times, tried to foment racial violence on the scale of the Zoot Suit Riots by representing these young men as burdens on society and the "enemy within," using exactly the same terms that vilified the Japanese Americans and supported their incarceration. Moreover, these articles on criminalized Mexican Americans ran alongside new rumors of Japanese American espionage in the camps (Sanchez 267).

In his writings during World War II, Himes characteristically emphasizes the racialized conflict abroad and how this latent racism is then directed toward communities of color at home. In a 1943 essay "Zoot Riots are Race Riots" for The Crisis, Himes narrates the events that lead to mob violence. Referring to the Nazi storm troopers, Himes calls the servicemen who were instigating the riots a "reincarnation" or "continuation of the vigilantes, the uniformed Klansmen" (221), conflating the foreign enemy with American white supremacists. Himes satirizes the uneven conflict between the servicemen and the Mexican Americans as a "great battle" which engaged the "combined forces of the United States navy, army, and marine corps" to defeat "a handful of youths with darker skins" (220). He decries the militar/s apparent focus on fighting groups of citizens at home rather than concentrating their energies abroad.

In this article Himes obliquely criticizes the black community by separating those African Americans who are concerned about this latest eruption of racist violence and those who would p refer to ignore it: "Perhaps you don't know what it is all about. If you are a Negro, you should know. But if you are one of those Negroes who profess not to know (and no doubt there are plenty of you), I will be only too happy toinform you" (220). In the novel If He Hollers Let Him Go, which I-limes was also writing in 1943, the author expands on this brief irony and creates a protagonist who resists the settlement and stasis possibly achieved by overlooking racism. In search of economic mobility and social respectability, those from the black bourgeoisie such as the Harrisons have reinterpreted settlement as exclusion of and disdain for the working classes, the other black migrants and the other races; it is a redefinition forged in racist and classist terms.

Himes plainly caricatures the Harrisons in exposing the hypocrisy of the black middle-class community in Los Angeles. Dr. Harrison is a skirtchaser, and the aristocratic Mrs. Harrison is always "running after white people" (54). Himes likens Mrs. Harrison to the aristocratic old ladies of the South with a "withered soul and body" (49), and Dr. Harrison is described as "overcharging poor hardworking coloured people or his incompetent services" (51). In these unflattering descriptions, Himesportrays both Harrisons as social and economic parasites on the African American community, smug and complacent in their exclusive entree into white society. Moreover, their daughter Alice smugly prides herself on her ability to pass for white and espouses white values and attitudes toward the black working class. Initially, Bob takes pride in Alice's whiteness, "the way she looked, the appearance she made among white people; proud of what she demanded from white people, and the credit they gave her; and her position and pre stige among her own people" (6). Alice, however, snobbishy enjoys the vicarious thrill of slumming on Central Avenue: Socially, she can pass as white, and economically she is richer than those African Americans generally frequenting the Avenue's entertainment spots. (16) Alice's s identity and function in the novel are entirely predicated on her seemingly superior standing in relation to other African Americans in Los Angeles.

Himes juxtaposes the black bourgeois experience with the workingclass life of his main character, contrasting the Harrisons' rigid complacency in their economic success and quasi-white social status to Bob's perpetual physical and psychological movement. The Harrisons symbolize collusion with the political and economic forces that frustrate the assimilation of recent working-class migrants into Los Angeles communities. Himes's novel eventually posits this imposition as a choice between becoming settlers such as the Harrisons or Fugitives such as Bob. The American Dream of self-realization is not possible for a fugitive from the law, and Himes condemns its exclusivity, further policed by the black bourgeoisie, which separates black enclaves from other racial communities and that prevents blacks from helping each other. Earlier and more recent migrants battle over space and representations of their communities, and those who have successfully transformed or recreated themselves into residents appear to become t he agents who push recent arrivals into a perpetual fugitive status.

In or to reserve a superior position relative to other African Americans, Alice uses the security of her social standing to elide Bob's moral contradictions in terms of race, smoothing over his fear of a racial apocalypse. Even as she appears to embody bourgeois values and morality in the novel, Alice suppresses her own inclinations apart from the white, middle-class, heterosexual standard her parents embrace, expressed in the frustration with her job and her possible lesbianism. Successful migration, as symbolized by Alice, is dependent on a moral blindness and desensitization to the racist framework of Los Angeles:

"I must tell you again, Bob darling," she said. `You need some definite aim, a goal that you can attain within the segregated pattern in which we live." When I started to interrupt she stopped me. "I know that sounds like compromise. But it isn't, darling. We are Negroes and we can't change that. But as Negroes, we can accomplish many things, achieve success, live our own lives, own our own homes, and have happiness. There is no reason a Negro cannot control his destiny within this pattern. Really, darling, it is not cowardly. It is simply a form of self-preservation." (168)

When Bob and Alice p lan out their dreams of success, Alice naively argues for humanistic freedom and individuality in trite terms: "`Every person, no matter what race, creed, or colour, is the captain of his soul. This is much more important, really, than being permitted to eat in exclusive restaurants, dwell in exclusive neighbourhoods, or even to compete economically with people of other races'" (169). In Alice's formulation, "captaining" one's destiny within the African American community is posited as superior to any individual struggle against racial exclusion and economic discrimination. Ultimately, Alice's dream of white middle-class success cannot assuage Bob's racial hurts, although he tries to convince himself that this assimilation is possible. However, as a black man in wartime Los Angeles, Bob soon realizes that nothing can protect him from confronting the violent ramifications of racism ingrained in American society and culture.

In Los Angeles Bob encounters a new form of slavery and cowardice, something more pernicious than the lack of economic opportunities he experienced in Cleveland. As Bob soon discovers, the failure of the golden Californian dream--the American Dream--for African Americans is partly rooted in the black community itself. As the voice of the black bourgeoisie in Himes's novel, the Harrisons try at all cost to smooth over the material and psychological effects of racism in order to maintain their social standing in a white society hostile to working-class black migrants. (18) When Bob expresses his desire to get even with white folks, Mrs. Harrison is dismayed, counseling him to read Eleanor Roosevelt's article "Freedom: Promise or Fact" in the October 1943 edition of the Negro Digest. In this essay, Roosevelt exhorts African Americans to do their best, to participate fully in the war, and to seek equal representation, ending her essay with this appeal:

I would try to remember that unfair and unkind treatment will not harm me if I do not let it touch my spirit. Evil emotions injure the man or woman who harbors them so I would try to fight down resentment, the desire for revenge and bitterness. I would try to sustain my own faith in myself by counting over my friends and among them there would undoubtedly be some white people. (9)

Foreshadowing Alice's advice to Bob to chart his own destiny and ignore the institutional racism he encounters, Roosevelt attempts to alleviate racial tension by simultaneously acknowledging yet glossing over justifiable resentment toward institutional racism. Roosevelt's article includes the tagline "Written Expressly for Negro Digest," a palliative gesture intending to remind African Americans of their place in the war effort and in society. In the final lines of her essay, Roosevelt adopts the perspective of an African American, essentially writing in blackface, as she attempts to encourage interracial peace and friendship. From behind this black mask, Roosevelt insists that, in "counting her friends," there would be some white folks, modeling a form of social integration for African Americans to imitate. The Harrisons obey Roosevelt's directives so zealously that even their daughter Alice protests their shameless pandering to white people (54). Ironically, Roosevelt's patronizing tone implies that African Americans are to be blamed for the lack of white friends, whereas racial segregation and social taboos serve to divide racial groups and reinforce racial homogeneity in social circles.

Bob lives in an ambiguous class state as a worker in the industrial sector. Alice, however, wants to remake him into a leader of the middle class. Bob sees this as a fundamental contradiction: The Harrisons are both dependent on and exploitive of the very class of African Americans they abhor; it is a fear that drives them to dissociate themselves from the desperate material conditions of other African Americans and other communities. Bob sees the contradictions of race and class and cannot overlook them in the same way that he cannot ignore the pain and damage inflicted upon his own body. However, Alice denies the possibility of the "metalanguage of race" and ultimately reaffirms the structures that both define and confine African Americans as "Negroes" in wartime Los Angeles. In this limited and shortsighted manner, Alice and her exclusive black community are unable to understand Bob's world of baffling visual signifiers and amorphous dreams waiting for expression, nor can these African Americans help him t o develop a language to counteract his racial pain and oppression.

Bob finds himself silenced, cut off from other African Americans, and unable to escape his sense of an imminent, personal racial apocalypse. In the middle of the novel, Bob, believing himself to have been deserted by Alice, dreams that he is beaten by poor white Southern migrants. These workers are led by the white president of the shipyard, dressed in a general's uniform, symbolizing the American economy and military working together to brutalize Bob. Even when the "peckerwoods" protest Bob's beating as too severe and possibly fatal, the president, supported by two policemen, orders them to continue, and the workers remain paralyzed under the multiple threat of the police force, the military, and their boss. As a few black men and women witness Bob's beating, the president notices the chance spectators' fear and engages them in a perverse conversation about the beating, saying: "'There should be something done about this'" (70). By challenging those who might champion Bob's cause, the president usurp s the b lack and white workers' possible protest and dispels any potential for solidarity along racial and class lines. Although Bob's beating is sanctioned by the economic, civil, and military authorities, it is also supported by the coerced approval of his fellow black workers an d their careful separation from Bob's alleged crime and punishment in their response: "'Yassuh, some of these heah boys do git out of their place, but usses don't cause no trouble at all. We working in defence and we don't cause nobody no trouble'" (70). The nervous attempts of other workers to avoid racial violence further silence Bob; at this crucial moment of victimization, Bob again cannot articulate his personal suffering as the other black workers are forced to deny his suffering. In fear of violent reprisals and economic discrimination, the other black workers are forced to disavow their racial similarity to Bob's nearly lynched body and to excuse the president's punishment for Bob's s crime of racial existence. In the racial injust ice fueled by the war economy, political institutions of white power inhibit possible mobilization along class and racial lines. Moreover, Bob notices the black men and women glaring at the white workers and acquiescing to the president; Himes critiques the tendency of the black community to blame the poor migrants, white and black, rather than accusing the actual perpetrators. The sophisticated urban methods of socialization and community building are inadequate against the racist machine of war and whiteness. The political and economic authorities coerce African Americans to disown their racial affiliation and class loyalties and mask this treachery as laudable patriotism, thereby disrupting the individual bonds within the black working class itself.

Himes critiques the misguided belief that "working in defence" will buy freedom from discrimination and racial violence in American society, and also critiques Bob's attempt to trust the safety economic mobility appears to offer. Bob believes himself to be the quintessential migrant when he arrives in Los Angeles, a bold and ambitious young man, jauntily self-confident that the strength of his body and mind will produce economic success and social acceptance. At the close of the first chapter. Bob offsets his racial fear by reasserting his manhood and his physical strength by putting on his work clothes -- an act of costuming or masking his blackness in the garb of the working class. Bolstered by this racial (dis)guise, Bob feels ready to transgress racial and class boundaries: "Something about my working clothes made me feel rugged, bigger than the average citizen, stronger than a white-collar worker -- stronger even than an executive. Important too" (8-9). As a laborer for an important war industry, Bob fee ls that finally he has become incorporated into American society by covering his racialized body with workclothes -- the next best thing to wearing the GI uniform and actually fighting in the war. However, the sobering reality of his situation as a black man in wartime Los Angeles awakens Bob to an understanding of his own individual entrapment in his black skin: "Living every day scared, walled in, locked up" (4). Caged by this unwavering structural racism, Bob becomes cornered as the different layers of his identity are stripped away. (19) In the end, Bob appears to have nothing but his own body and his own skin- and these become mutilated by manifestations of white racism.

Although war rationing meant decreased mobility for most people -- even the white elite -- Bob uses his car to flaunt his economic and physical mobility and to represent his newly acquired leaderman status at the shipyard and his superiority to rich whites who were ironically unable to buy a car due to wartime rationing (10). Given the wartime benefits of his job in an industry vital to the war, this car becomes an urban sign of status. Already a metaphor for racial and class transgression, the 1942 Buick Roadmaster also becomes a vehicle of physical transgression; Bob challenges white drivers in duels over space and superiority along the highways -- a metonymic expression of the larger hostility and competition of social and economic racism. In this contest for space on the streets of Los Angeles, Bob's passengers also jostle for room in the overcrowded car: a physical echo of the spatial limitations restricting urban neighborhoods of color. His fellow black workers are all crowded into the close confines of the car just as they are crowded into the cramped hotels and living spaces of the black neighborhoods as recent migrants to Los Angeles. Furthermore, the car becomes Bob's final protection, the last cover for his naked "blackness." This vehicle, once a promising sign of Bob's middleclass potential, status, and the American Dream, is now transformed into a waiting place, a mere rest-stop that reveals the futility of Bob's assimilation and migration. Furthermore, the car facilitates his psychological and physical movements and serves as a metaphor for Bob's failed migration: The car literally runs out of gas; Bob loses this last protection and disguise and ends his flight by being drafted into the army. When Bob loses his car, he loses his last protective garment and space -- the final barrier between him and the racism of the region.

In their final, lighthearted conversation about their future marriage, Alice observes that Bob looks like a "worker in a CIO win-the-war poster" (164). Bob jokingly replies that he is the "the twelve million black faces" (164). Through this allusion to Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices (1941), a utopian celebration of the strength and power of the black masses, Himes ironically undercuts the young couple's buoyant naivete, for Bob has just promise d Alice that he will leave the black masses. By foregrounding the "complex movement of a debased feudal folk," Wright cautions readers that the text "intentionally" omits a discussion of the "so-called 'talented tenth,' or the isolated islands of mulatto leadership which are still to be found in many parts of the South, or the growing and influential Negro middle-class professional and business men of the North who have, for the past thirty years or more, formed a sort of liaison corps between the whites and the blacks" (xix).

Alice, with her coveted white-collar job in city services and her family's connections to the white elite, is clearly among the vanguard of the "liaison corps" Wright overlooks in favor of the "feudal folk." Whereas Alice is firmly incorporated into the black bourgeoisie, Bob's class identity is more complex: A college degree and his engagement to Alice contrast with his underemployment in the shipyard and his status as a migrant worker and black man in wartime Los Angeles. Moreover, the jokes between Bob and Alice are funny to the young couple precisely because Bob has promised to separate himself from the union workers and the black masses. In one significant part of their conversation, the young couple's banter operates on two levels: His betrothal to Alice represents his concession to her characteristically complacent and conservative views on African Americans and race relations, and it mocks the "feudal folk" of Wright's vision.

Bob's incorporation into the black bourgeois fails immediately after his reconciliation with Alice. During his capture and his subsequent beating, Bob is forced to confront all of white America: "I saw a hundred million white faces, distorted with rage" (181). Throughout the novel, in the scenes at the shipyard, Bob is faced with the vacillating hostility and sexual attraction of another migrant, Madge, a white woman from Texas working on another team as a tacker. Bob's relationship with Madge is the culmination of his deeply rooted fear that life in America for a black man inexorably leads to death by lynching, metaphoric or real. Their close proximity in the workplace, and the fact that Bob and Madge frequently come into contact where, as Bob terms it, she "performs" her fear of him, pushes him unwillingly into the stereotypical role of a black man rapaciously desiring a white woman. In their tense and often violent interactions, Madge comes to signify white America, an intolerant and unforgiving racist heg emony that proscribes interracial sexual desire and relations. For Bob, Alice represents the black upper-middle-class enclave, the black "Westside" neighborhood in which she lives, and Madge signifies an entire geographic region notorious for racism and lynching:

I wanted her then more than I wanted all the Alices in the world. I don't know how to case it. She looked like a big overpainted strumpet with eyes as wild as Oklahoma.

But when I got to her I lost my nerve. I couldn't say a word. I just couldn't do it, that was all. She was pure white Texas. And I was black. And a white man was standing there. I never knew before how good a job the white folks had done on me. (124)

Paradoxically, Bob desires Madge because she signifies the white heartland of America in Oklahoma and Texas, and her body challenges him to beat the racist system by sexually conquering her. Although the gendering of geographic spaces is hardly an unfamiliar trope, Bob metonymically considers Madge as a very particular state: Texas, with its reputedly unforgiving racial hierarchy and swift punishments for black transgressions. Madge's body becomes synonymous with "pure white Texas" (125), an American social system that hampers Bob's struggle to succeed in Los Angeles. In fact, his symbolic domination and subordination of Madge as Texas represent his flouting of the racist expectations that he be subjected to racial retribution and punishment for being a black man.

Bob is haunted by the fear of having to pay for his crime of being black. If a punishment is the foregone conclusion to his life, or any black man's life, Bob would rather be punished for something he has done, even if it is the actual execution of a crime of murder or rape. Bob decides that a deserved punishment might be better than being lynched for no reason except his blackness. In a sudden twist in the plot, Bob fatalistically begins to "perform" in the script against him -- that of a black man's stereotypically innate lust for white women that putatively justifies his brutal lynching. Given Madge's phone number and address by a coworker, Bob considers subduing and raping Madge. However, once invited into her room, Madge retaliates by calling their potential sexual relationship a rape, and Bob runs from her room and from her accusation. Thwarted by the very prejudice that would name Bob as the rapist in relation to a white woman, Bob is cowed by the script that Madge and the rest of American society have already constructed.

Although Madge's vindictiveness almost results in Bob's lynching and costs him his civilian life, her seemingly stereotypical role can be read in a more complex way. (20) Madge herself represents a female transgression into the male-dominated defense industry. She occupies the lowest class of "whiteness" as a female worker in a predominantly male workplace, a deserted wife, an alleged prostitute, and a recent migrant. Cognizant of the racial, class, and gender forces at play, Madge manipulates the reactions of her white coworkers and supervisors by performing an approximation of feminine fear and outraged sensibility in being forced to interact with black workers. With other white men around, particularly her superiors at work, Madge successfully incites the workers to threaten Bob with physical harm for his mere proximity to Madge. Later, these coworkers rally around Madge's false cries of rape and wrongfully punish Bob for this crime. Significantly, when Bob confronts Madge during lunchtime, away from her w hite supervisors and fellow team members, Madge is friendly: She even interrupts her sister-in-law's lukewarm tirade against interracial relations (133). Not only does Madge metaphorically separate Bob from his "manhood" as an insurmountable geographical barrier, she also represents the absence of (white) men on the home front because of their migration to the foreign arena of war.

Racism, then, becomes the lens that simultaneously reduces and multiplies the victim and the aggressor into a primal struggle at the heart of American society. American patriotic fervor collides with latent racism in this violent confrontation that strips Bob of his manhood, but Himes also intimates that Bob not only is a black victim almost lynched, but also embodies many other racialized and victimized bodies. Recovering from his injuries at a hospital, Bob's bare body becomes multiply painted with other racial signifiers:

I was nude. My knees, elbows, and one wrist were bandaged and taped and I was splotched all over with mercurochrome. I reached for my head, felt the thick turban of bandages. My face felt raw and my lips were swollen several times their natural size. I explored with my tongue and felt teeth out in front but I couldn't tell how many. I hurt in the groin as if I was ruptured. (183-84)

With swollen lips and missing teeth, Bob ironically embodies the thick-lipped black stereotype prominent in popular forms of entertainment such as minstrelsy. In this passage, Himes identifies red and yellow colors on Bob's black skin, with the reddish antibacterial paint on his yellow skin, and a vaguely Asian turban of bandages on his head; Bob's raw, bloody body collects these racial signifiers. representing the multiracial condition of racism in Los Angeles. (21) Unable to speak through his disfigured mouth, Bob embodies the multiple locations and perspectives of the silenced minorities in Los Angeles; ultimately, he is transformed into the hunted racial body of America itself.

Because of the hysterical racism dredged up by the war, the Japanese American community was displaced and the bodies of the Mexican American youths were stripped of their symbol of protest and defiance. If He Hollers Let Him Go critiques the various communities that enclose Bob and eventually push him beyond the violent intersection of race and class that meets in the space of Los Angeles. Although Bob feels alienated from the African American community in Los Angeles, he recognizes the racism directed against other minority groups. Bob refuses to overlook these blatant acts of racism against the Japanese Americans and Mexican Americans just as he refuses to overlook the racism directed toward himself. He accepts no hiding place, no scapegoat -- in direct contrast to the black bourgeoisie, which blames the working-class Southern migrants for the "Negro problem," or the media, which condemns the Mexican and Japanese American populations for social ills and the war itself. Bob feels that he alone appears to fea r the racism seething beneath the surface, and he believes that, for this understanding, he will become victimized as the body unsuccessfully bridging between Los Angeles spaces, the African American classes and other racial communities.

In the conclusion of the novel, Bob is coerced into enlisting in the army rather than face a jail sentence for the alleged rape. Along with two young Mexican American men who are also alleged criminals like himself, Bob is transformed into cannon fodder for Uncle Sam's army, fighting in what he disparages as a "white war" -- a war directed by and for the benefit of white elites. At first, the optimistic confidence of the two young Mexican Americans seems gratingly naive, especially when juxtaposed to the impending physical threats to their lives in combat:

The two Mexican youths he had with him grinned a welcome.

"Let's go, man, the war's waiting," one of them cracked.

"Don't rush the man.... Looks like this man has had a war. How you doing, man?" (203)

Although appearing on the last page of the novel, these Mexican Americans are the first characters to acknowledge Bob's struggle as a racial war, forging a momentary understanding that allows Bob to assert his subjectivity as a black man in America, however briefly. Most importantly, the slangy repetition of man to describe and address Bob reasserts and acknowledges their commonality and subordinated racial and gender identity as men of color. Voicing his presence and affiliation with these young men, Bob responds to their superficially lighthearted banter: " 'I'm still here' " (203). Of course, this utopian moment is extremely brief, and it is only furtively achieved under the watchful eyes of the guards escorting the prisoners to the recruiting station.

In this potentially grim conclusion to Bob's unsettled existence to this point, the upbeat interchange with the two other draftees provides an opening for a future based on an interracial community. (22) Despite the bleakness of Bob's forced conscription, Himes opens the possibility of an interracial understanding in Bob's interaction with his fellow draftees Although white America intrudes, it has inadvertently bonded these three minority individuals together in their punishment. Ejecting racial misfits into the extraterritorial spaces of war, American society unintentionally creates the margins wherein Bob and the other prisoners can forge a common understanding shared by racial groups. While their circumstances most obviously show the subjection of racialized bodies to military and economic structures, their final gesture of solidarity simultaneously offers the possibility for future interracial mobilization and shared community.

While these moments of interracial connection do not appear crucial to the plot at first, they actually structure the racial consciousness that motivates Bob's actions. Although Bob's struggle is brief and solitary, his anger and frustration reveal the various manifestations of racism and identify the divisions that separate community mobilization against discrimination and inequality. Himes's novel chronicles a complex historical moment in which the response to the migrant workers employed in the war industries raises a growing racial and class consciousness that would redefine the leadership and goals of the African American community in Los Angeles, and across the nation. Himes emphasizes poignant, almost sentimental, images: the image of the Japanese American boy singing in a display of patriotism be ore is internment an d the Mexican American recruits, sharing in Bob's final fate in the army.

Chester Himes is one of the more famous individual examples during World War II of those among minority communities who identify the complexity of white racism and its multiple manifestations against communities of color. Bridging working-class experiences and the middle-class aspirations of racialized communities, If He Hollers Let Him Go can be considered part of a nationwide, multiracial reaction to inequalities in labor practices and social opportunities. Although many African Americans in the military served as models of black courage during and after the war, these returning servicemen would eventually face the contradiction that, while they were celebrated war heroes abroad, they faced exploitation at home. However, the record and recognition of their achievements would play an integral part in the genesis of later political and social movements for the people of color in America.


(1.) Speculating in The Quality of Hurt about the reasons for publishers' rejection of his first novel, Black Sheep, in the early 1940s, Himes remarks: "American publishers are not interested in black writers unless they bleed from white torture. I was beginning to bleed, but I had not bled enough" (72-73). Mimes expresses disgust for the (white) public's desire to read of black people's humiliation or degradation in order to deem a book "beautiful" (73). In reaction to this sentiment, Mimes seeks a language to communicate Bob's internal pain, one that will not sensationalize either his torture or his victimization.

(2.) It is important to note that just those Americans of Japanese descent were systematically removed from their homes on the West Coast and relocated to internment camps. Although some individual German and Italian Americans were also held and interrogated by the FBI, entire Japanese American families and communities were uprooted and interned.

(3.) Bob's individual narrative as one working-class black man in wartime Los Angeles can be juxtaposed fruitfully to the qualified optimism and productivity in the alliances between the black bourgeoisie and the black working class in gaining equal representation and participation in the workplace and neighborhood. See, for example, Josh Sides's informative discussion of the Los Angeles shipyard's racial integration of its American Federation of Labor union during World War II, George Lipstiz's examination of working-ciass mobilization throughout World War II and the postwar eras, E. Frederick Anderson's analysis of community formation in the first half of the twentieth century, and Keith Collins's discussion of "Black Los Angeles" during the 1940s.

(4.) This is a novel at the crossroads of traditions, the refraction of black cultural hegemony from the much vaunted Harlem Renaissance to the dispersion of other migratory sites of secondary migration such as Los Angeles. If He Hollers Let Him Go bridges the gap from the pre-Depression proliferation of black arts to the rise of contemporary black consciousness in the 1950s and 1960s. In a sense, Himes's novel can be seen as a response to the "high modernist literature" that either elided black creative expression or sanitized it (Scruggs 211).

(5.) See Scott Kurashige's work Transforming Los Angeles; Black and Japanese American Struggles for Racial Equality in the 20th Century (2000). especially the chapter 'The Black Popular Front in Los Angeles: Community/Labor Organizing during World War II." Kurashige details the shift in leadership and agenda, primarily dominated by the black middle class, to include labor interests of the black working class.

(6.) In 1968, Edward Margolies argued that, "for the most part[,] the American critics have dismissed [Himes] as being of the Wright school of naturalism, whose 'protest' is no longer fashionable" (87). In other words, If He Hollers Let Him Go has just enough similarities with "canonical" migrant narratives like Native Son (Margolies's work of criticism is titled Native Son) that critics assert the specifics of the novel can be subsumed into the critical apparati adumbrated for other texts. In light of this critical elision, a corollary purpose of this paper is to wean Himes's hard-boiled depiction of wartime racism from the critically imposed shadow of Richard Wright's earlier novel by emphasizing Himes's singular approach to African American migrant fiction apart from a reductive understanding of Mimes as just another naturalist writer of the Wright school of protest and the proletariat.

(7.) Two of the works that have begun to identify the "Los Angeles" novel are the edited collections by David Fine entitled Los Angeles in Fiction. Whereas the first collection of essays (1964) neglects African American writers in Los Angeles. the revised edition (1995) includes an essay by Robert E. Skinner on the works of Chester Himes. Urban theorist Mike Davis places If He Hollers Let Him Go squarely in the noir tradition, wherein Himes's novel is regarded as a "Dostoyevskian portrait of Los Angeles as a racial hell" that is as "noir as anything by [James M.] Cain and [Raymond] Chandler" (43). In a pamphlet published by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs celebrating writers of the "historic Wilshire corridor," the heart of the upscale business district in Los Angeles until the 1970s, John Swift discusses Himes as one of the "city's great mythographers," akin to Nathanael West, Thomas Pynchon. and Joan Didion (14). Swift further argues the distinction between the writing strategies of the white noir authors and Himes: "Other great Los Angeles writers tended toward metaphysics in sorting out their despair: Nathanael West, for instance, used the experience of Los Angeles as the basis for meditations on the grotesque comedy of life in death's dominion, and Chandler took gloomy comfort in finding death ('the big sleep' itself) as the final informing truth behind life's complicated corruptions. Others contemplating the collapse of the great American myth of the West elaborated in different ways on this essentially medieval theme. Himes, however, found his enemies closer to hand: what threatens Bob Jones's power as an individual, his pleasure in his strong working-man's body ... is not death, but America itself, as he realizes after his arrest" (14).

(8.) In this reassessment of Chester Himes's early work. Robert E. Skinner's pathbreaking critical essay on Himes's Los Angeles novels, if He Hollers Let Him Go and Lonely Crusade, deserves special mention. Skinner correctly identifies the foundation of Bob's deep racial fear as a black man in Los Angeles, attributing the origins to the Japanese American internment and the Zoot Suit Riots, but chooses to focus primarily on Bob's complex relationships to Alice and Madge.

(9.) Cultural critic Norman Klein notes that the cover of the first paperback edition was created expressly to appeal to the reading public's penchant for sensational and illicit sexual relations between black men and white women: "By the late forties, Himes's scene of the black man against the wall was a familiar trope in mass fiction. But usually it was set in the rural south, not in Los Angeles. The lurid paperback cover (1949), makes that plain enough: the black man Bob Jones (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Himes himself) is positioned as the wrongly accused, the uppity 'negro.' Bob has been backed into the lower corner of the picture and stares fearfully at a tousled blonde woman, described in the publisher's blurb as 'a tough blonde from Texas.' She points him out as a rapist to angry white workers streaming through a framed doorway. There is little in the picture to identify Los Angeles, or the industrial defense industry during the war, where the novel is set. It could be a small rural town. It c learly resembles the Erskine Caldwell South, an allegory broad enough to attract readers across the country" (Klein 269-70).

(10.) Historian John Dower details the racial propaganda vilifying the Japanese enemy in War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. Many Americans failed to distinguish between the enemy abroad and the Japanese Americans incarcerated in internment camps.

(11.) Structural racism still persists in the ghettoization of Los Angeles, described in Soja's article on the aftermath of the 1965 and 1992 rebellions that graphically portrayed the city's striated boundaries. For a closer examination of the history of restrictive covenants in Los Angeles, see Rick Moss's article detailing the development of the African American community in Los Angeles (234-35).

(12.) In their literary critical biography The Several Lives of Chester Himes (1994), Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre note that Himes began writing If He Hollers Let Him Go in a house abandoned by an interned Japanese American family in Boyle Heights, a suburb of Los Angeles (50).

(13.) In a report on lynching in the early twentieth century, noted black leader James Weldon Johnson remembered his tour near Gainesville, Florida, where he noticed the deserted farms and places that were once inhabited by black sharecroppers, abandoned en masse after a spate of lynchings terrorized black communities in the area. Johnson cites a report by the United States Department of Labor that the fear of lynching was statistically one of the first two reasons African Americans gave for their northward migration (78).

(14.) Historian Robin D. G. Kelley, in his influential discussion of Malcolm Little during his zoot suit youth, distinguishes between the zoot suit culture of African Americans and Chicanos, the latter of which arose from pachuco youth culture. While both are expressions of countercultures and reflect the growing alienation of young men in urban cities, Kelley argues that they remain different in their appropriations of Mexican history and "their own hip version of Spanish laced with English words" (283n11).

(15.) See Evelyn Higginbotham's essay for a further discussion of how race informs all social categories and divisions. But race can serve as a "double-voiced discourse" that not only oppresses but enables black agency: "As this culture of dissemblance illustrates, black people endeavored not only to silence and conceal but also to dismantie and deconstruct the dominant society's deployment of race. Racial meanings were never intemalized by blacks and whites in an identical way. The language of race has historically been what Bakhtin calls a double-voiced discourse--serving the voice of black oppression and the voice of black liberation .... Blacks took 'race' and empowered its language with their own meaning and intent, just as the slaves and freed-people had appropriated white surnames, even those of their masters, and made them their own" (266-67).

(16.) Bob suspects that Alice passes for white when she is with white friends, and he is inordinateiy proud of Alice's appearance and, almost grudgingly, of her increased mobility and protection as a light-skinned African American. Her "white" appearance, however, almost gets him into trouble when they have "transgressed" the African American areas of Los Angeles into the heavily policed, "white-only" spaces of the posh hotel and Santa Monica. Alice's mad drive to the ocean parodies the westward migration of black migrants like Bob.

(17.) This tension is rather ironic, as always in California's century-old fight against immigration that continues to the present day. After its founding in the mid-nineteenth century. Los Angeles was populated on booster rhetoric from the 1880s to the 1920s; however, this manifest destiny of open land for white settlers was built on the erasure of color, of California's Native Americans, and of the founding settlers of Los Angeles of African descent, and on the establishment of a peaceful, graceful mission myth akin to Helen Hunt Jackson's pastoral romance Ramona. But, of course, the booster rhetoric was for white settlers and white settlers only, preferably Christian and not Communist. See Mike Davis's socialist critique of Los Angeles history (17-97).

(18.) Even the radical black weekly The California Eagle encouraged new migrants to seek farm work outside of the city, most probably to alleviate the tensions expressed by white workers and government officials. In 1943, Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Orville R. Caldwell argued that black migrants should be barred from entering Los Angeles because "Negroes from the South and Southwest are unassimilable": "We have a large Mexican population here. They have been absorbed and we have no trouble with them. The Negro who was born and reared here fits into our picture, but these Southern Negroes are a serious problem. They don't get along with the Negroes who were born and reared here, nor with the white residents.... If this in-migration is not stopped, until such a time as these people can be properly absorbed into the community, dire results will [e]nsue" (qtd. in Sides 253).

(19.) Edward Margolies argues that Himes's narrative lacks character development because Bob begins and ends in the same psychological condition:"... his declining fortune is forecast in the first pages of the novel by a near paranoid state of mind--and in that sense there is no real progression in the novel. Everything that happens to Bob--and there are humiliations, rebuffs and insults from beginning to end--only serves to justify the extremity of his emotions. Had Himes shown Jones to be more trusting from the start, the effect might be cumulative rather than tedious" (Margolies 90). I argue that Himes does establish the conditions of Bob's racial torture from the very beginning; racist violence, the bedrock of American democracy, has saturated and permeated Bob's character to the point where it infiltrates his dreams with inscrutable visions and haunting symbols that taunt him. Himes launches us, in media res, into Bob Jones's development, in a way reminiscent of Faulkner's characteristic narrative techni que: We watch Bob's material conditions strip away his defenses until his very body is used for cannon fodder at the end.

(20.) See Eileen Boris's essay that chronicles the inclusion of women and minorities into the war effort, stemming from President Roosevelt's Executive Order 8802, signed in 1941, and its creation of the Committee on Fair Employment Practice. Boris begins with an epigraph and discussion of the tension between Bob and Madge, and its larger commentary on wartime developments that allowed and monitored such workplace intimacy.

(21.) Earlier in the tense hotel dining room scene where Bob and Alice try to have dinner in an elite white hotel, Bob mocks Alice and the ignorant racism of the other diners, joking that he could "pass" for an Asian with his "yellow" skin:" 'I'll tell them I'm East Indian if you think that'll help. Next time I'll wear a turban'" (60).

(22.) Himes's novel contains uncritical portrayals of sexism, misogyny, and homophobia, especially directed toward the complex character of Alice. In elucidating the potential for a racial understanding that transcends race and class based on a conception of male homosociality, Himes excludes and disdains comparable female experiences of community. Historian George Lipsitz remarks on how this limited vision thwarts a comprehensive scope: "... he saw how racist hierarchies and antiracist resentments became transposed onto issues of sexuality and gender. Yet his uninterrogated assumptions about the need for men to possess and protect women undermined any possibility of his formulating an effective oppositional critique of the ways in which racism becomes sexualized, how It becomes rendered a product of 'nature' rather than of history" (38).

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Swift, John N. "Chester Himes, the Fiction of Exclusion, and Los Angeles' Other Geography of Desire." Writers of the Historic Wilshire Corridor. Los Angeles: California Council for the Humanities, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, n.d.

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Yokota, Kariann Akemi. "From Little Tokyo to Bronzeville and Back: Ethnic Communities in Transition." Thesis UCLA, 1996.

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Lynn M. Itagaki is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her current projects examine the intersection of law. literature, and the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising. For their insightful discussions of this paper, she would like to thank Debra Bronstein, E. Tsekani Browne, June Chung, James V. Gatewood. Lisa M. Itagaki, Jinqi Ling. Anne Mellor, Valerie Smith, Terry Smith, Kathryn Stelmach, and the participants in the Diversity within Unity 2 conference at Oxford University.
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Date:Mar 22, 2003
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