Literature as Activism - From Entertainment to Challenging Social Norms: Michael Nava’s Goldenboy (1988)

Angelos Bollas


The aim of this article is to examine how Michael Nava appropriates the conventions of Detective/Crime Fiction to engage in artivism, whereby art is used to challenge sexual and ethnic social oppression and inequality. By providing an analysis of the heteronormative conventions of the Detective and Crime Fiction genre, the article focuses on the ways in which narratives portray homophobic violence, as well as on the fact that such portrayals result from and contribute to the promotion of heteronormative hegemonies. Following this, I focus on Michael Nava’s Goldenboy (1988) and I analyse Nava’s writing in relation to the wider Chicano tradition of using art to engage in activism, what has been termed as ‘artivism.’ The central argument of this paper is that Nava ‘queers’ the form of the Detective Fiction genre to highlight the shortcomings of our society, the effects of the hegemonial heteronormativity, and the need for social change.


Artivism, Queer literature, Heteronormativity, Violence, Detective Fiction, Queering, Queer theory

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