Thursday, March 28, 2019

Chicanonautica: Inked in Dystopia

The United States will soon be require all residents to have color-coded biometric tattoos to keep track of their immigration status and citizenship.

Sounds like something out of recent news broadcasts, or a tweet from the White House, doesn’t it? But it’s the core concept behind Sabrina Vourvoulais’ novel Ink. When it was originally published in 2012 (we thought the immigration/border issue was getting crazy back then . . .) it was considered to far-out speculative satire, now I hesitate call it science fiction, because it’s not very “futuristic” and is to  all too plausible.

Looks like outrageous is the new normal.

Ink just may be required reading our current era. It reads like a thriller, the situation presented with journalistic eye for detail, that has been well-researched, even lived, Vourvoulais being an immigrant herself. There are also a wide variety of Latinx characters--the main characters, not just victims who need to be rescued.

And there is even a touch of magic realism. I shouldn’t be surprised, it’s the Latinx way of seeing the world. And it blends perfectly with the story full of gritty realities, which of course, is another Latinx thing.

It’s a good book to read as we slither toward another presidential election campaign. We can use it to gauge how dystopian the immigrant experience has become. And how hysterical the proposed “solutions” have become.

I wonder if kids like to read dystopias because they remind them of the only reality they have known . . .

But then, as I have pointed out before, what is dystopia to some is utopia to others. Those who want a border wall would also think that biometric tattoos are a good idea.

Maybe there are people who think that Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451,The Handmaid’s Tale, and Ink are models for a better world.


I hope I’m just letting my imagination get away from me here. But then I think about current politics . . . Could dystopia be the new normal?

I hope books like Ink can help.

Ernest Hogan has been asked participate in an oral history project on Latinofuturism and Space History for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

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